Matt Taibbi first made a name for himself when he filed stories from Russia. Later, he published provocative pieces in Rolling Stone, including an obituary for Andrew Breitbart titled, “Death of a Douche.”
Taibbi’s new book, The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing (OR Books, $20) is described as “an almost true account.” Taibbi blurs the line between fact and fiction. His co-author, an African-American wheeler-dealer, is described on the cover as “Anonymous” and inside as “Huey.”
Together they pepper their narrative with slang like “locks,” for dreadlocks and “tats,” for tattoos. The book offers rules for wanna-be traffickers, like “never let business partners know where you stay” and “always carry an Allen wrench.”
Some are silly. Others are unrealistic. Ever since I began to write the “Rolling Papers” column for The Bohemian and The Pacific Sun, I’ve never met a dealer—I’ve met dozens—who abides by the rules laid down in The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing.
Taibbi’s and Huey’s book doesn’t succeed as a how-to-guide to make money and stay out of jail peddling weed from Santa Rosa to New York and beyond.
But it is appealing as a gonzo journalist’s account of life in these United States during the turbulent Trump years. Huey has strong opinions on a variety of subjects, including sex and drugs. He also offers provocative comments on the big historical picture.
“This country was founded on capitalism, and Black people were the first commodity sold on Wall Street,” he explains. “Now we’ll be the first to be stripped of a business that we built, and in exchange some of us will get housing in Wall Street–backed private prisons.”
American historians would probably balk at the notion that the country was founded on capitalism, and that Black people were the first commodity to be bought and sold on Wall Street. The U.S. was founded on slavery. Beaver pelts were the first big commodity.
Some of the intel in The Business Secrets could mislead, as when the authors insist that “Cops need a reason to open that trunk, and if you play it right, you never give that to them.”
Unfortunately, many cops don’t need a reason to open a trunk. Drivers with dreadlocks have been stopped by cops on the 101 at the “sting point” near Cloverdale. Locks can provide a probable cause to stop, frisk, search, seize and arrest. When I asked a lawyer who represented a dealer with locks why the dealer didn’t cut them, I was told, “He’s a Rastafarian and they’re part of his religion.”
Despite the swagger and cockiness, Business Secrets is a welcome, lyrical defense of “coaxing a beautiful thing out of the ground and bringing it to your door.”
Jonah Raskin is the author of “Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War.”