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Cocaine Train: Tracing My Bloodline Through Colombia

Stephen Smith

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Prose: non-fiction, Travel writing

* A highly original personal journey.

* The Columbia Stephen Smith uncovers on his extraordinary journey - surreally beautiful, unfathomably savage, seedily glamourous and mercilessly corroded by the trade in drugs.

One of the most violent countries on earth, where the cause of death is regularly 'massacre', drink drivers play chicken and kidnap stories pass for dinner party conversation; nine times more dangerous than the United States, Columbia is no place for the nervous traveller. So it is much against his better judgement that, in the summer of 1998, coinciding with a World Cup and a general election, journalist Stephen Smith finds himself boarding the Cocaine Train out of Cali, home of Columbia's infamous drugs cartel.

Its passengers prey to theives, extortionists and a dozen different varieties of paramilitary, the Cocaine Train is one of the last remnants of a once great railway system, and Smith is riding in it in search of a grandfather he barely knew: Fred Leslie Frost, pioneering railwayman, upright citizen and diplomat, with a Columbian mistress and an illegitimate son. As remote from his suburban British origins as it is possible to imagine.

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Stephen Smith

Steven Smith works for Channel 4 news and writes regularly for the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS.

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