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Snowblind: A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  681 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Called "a triumphant piece of reporting" (The New Yorker), Snowblind is an all-out, nonstop, and now classic look at the cocaine trade through the eyes of smuggler Zachary Swan. In a brief Roman-candle career, Swan served an elegant clientele, traveling between Bogota and the nightclubs of New York, inventing intricate scams to outmaneuver the feds. Creating diversions tha
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1976)
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Jan 09, 2010 Ephraim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is worth reading for several reasons:
1. No matter how you feel about drugs, and cocaine in particular, the author brilliantly and ambitiously unmasks the underground netherworld of cocaine smuggling, and humanizes a notoriously inhuman trade. It takes the nonsense you see Lou Dobbs spouting, with his perfectly fake, immaculately white chompers, on CNN about the notorious killers, thugs, and illicit monsters that smuggle drugs, and makes you realize your 50 year old neighbor may be har
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Feb 20, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's fiction, but just barely. This is one of the better books I've read on any micro-topic (in this case the history of cocaine smuggling in the 1970s). It's funny, very informative, and high entertaining. It's a perfect travel read for a trip to Columbia.
Saira Viola
Dec 01, 2012 Saira Viola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Funny , honest and beautifully written . There is a poetic fluency in the narrative that is deceptively simple . A modern classic
Sep 04, 2009 Marian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Snow Blind: A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade by Robert Sabbag is a fast-paced story that takes place in the early 1970s, during the peak of the cocaine trade. Through the eyes of smuggler Zachary Swan, Snowblind tells the partly biographical story of Swan’s intricate scams, successful maneuvers, and the actions and his relationships with his various associates, customers, and adversaries. By age 30 Swan, who is an ex- United States Marine born into an upper-class family in New York, is living ...more
Ruby Noise
Jun 17, 2017 Ruby Noise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read on a rascal who got away, mostly, with the importation of Cocaine into the US in the 1970's. Zac has an astute mind and his adventures of smuggling the class A narcotic was brilliant. Makes me proud that this man got away, mostly, with this as the American Government has been profiting from narcotics smuggling for years. A real adventure story, not just for boys.
If I were writing a story that involved cocaine smuggling in the 1970s, this book would be the perfect textbook: it's that detailed. How to design a smuggling operation, how to scale and implement it, how to weigh, evaluate, cut and resell cocaine, it is all covered in this book.

But the details don't stop there. No! You'll also learn about the best places to stay in Cartagena and Bogota, why no one goes to St Marta, and you'll meet a supporting cast of hundreds. Well, perhaps not hundreds, but
You'd expect a book about cocaine to be, if nothing else, exciting, and Snowblind is, occasionally, very exciting, but it's also a bitch to read. This was first published in 1976 and has not dated particularly well. The main reason why, and the book's biggest flaw, in my opinion, is the author's unabashed enthusiasm for the story (not the drug or the business) though it has to be said, an enthusiasm that is considerably more restraint than Howard Mark's excruciating introduction.
It is a great st
M.R. Dowsing
Jul 31, 2012 M.R. Dowsing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those rare things - a good true crime book! It's an eye-opening look at the cocaine trade, focusing on the career of near-genius smuggler "Zachary Swan" in the early 70s. The book is not without it's faults - Sabbag seems a bit too keen to defend Swan instead of allowing readers to draw their own conclusions - but it's very well-written, with an engagingly dry sense of humour. There are also some fascinating passages about the history of cocaine use. It seems that the reason the d ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
When it was first published in the mid-seventies, SNOWBLIND established itself as an essential piece of true crime writing. The story of the legendary Zachary Swan, a mover in the cocaine trade in the sixties who set the standard for all who followed, Sabbag's riveting account is a compulsive insight into an underworld populated by crazy characters and riven by paranoia. The result is an illuminating and wild book that influenced a generation of writers.
Kevin Connor
Dec 08, 2011 Kevin Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Pretty much a go-to book if you're trying to get into the mindset of one of most sophisticated and successful (he never served time) drug smugglers to ever come out of the United States. Which I am totally not, obviously. Why would I ever dream of doing that? But just hypothetically speaking... ;)
Jan 31, 2008 Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I read this around the same time as I was conducting a big heroin importation trial and took inspiration from it to have my guy acquitted. It's a sort of biography of a drug trafficker and supremely well written. Enjoyed enormously, even if the poor sap whom it's about obviously had a poor lawyer and spent some time in jail.
David Ward
Mar 12, 2010 David Ward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Snowblind: A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade by Robert Sabbag (Avon Books 1976)(Biography). An enthralling thriller if ever there was one. This is the story of one man's meteoric rise and subsequent fall in the business of wholesale cocaine importing. The most thrilling words to be found in this tale: “They missed the load.” My rating: 7.5/10, finished 1980.
Jun 01, 2011 Des rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good well written book . It is also an interesting piece of American social history ; the cocaine trade before the cartels took over. I think it's the only banned book I've read. Some idiot politicians/journalists decided that it promoted drug use - what a load of crap.
I read this novel in the early 1980s as it was being passed around from friend to friend. I remember that it was an easy read, fascinating and that it was about the cocaine trade. Otherwise, I don't remember any of the details of the plot nor the characters portrayed.
Todd Janko
Sep 27, 2012 Todd Janko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too bad I was "snow blind" when I read this one back in the early 90's, joking. Anyway, I can't recall the whole theme of the book, but the title basically says it. If anything you can anything out of this novel, it's a nice read for dealers finding unique ways to smuggle product.
Aug 17, 2009 Iain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dodgy dealings in the world of cocaine smuggling. Interesting if only to read about some of the unbelievable scams these guys got up to (and got away with). Intriguing, unsettling and a bit of a morality lesson.
Dan Hatcher
Feb 07, 2016 Dan Hatcher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Badass work of expository journalism. Did you know that on the news, reporters fudge the numbers when they say police did 'a million dollar drug bust' by stating the total price that the drug would run on the street after being cut and resold by half a dozen dealers? Me either.
Digi Munoz
Good read, but i lost momentum about half way through. Would be really interesting if you had interest in knowing more about the subject matter.

Had some really interesting chapters, but I wouldn't re-read it.

Oct 12, 2016 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an old book this it seems, although this is an updated version. An interesting tale and details some of the ways to smuggle cocaine through customs.
Dec 06, 2008 Caty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A yummy, immensely readable story of middle class drugdealing--refreshingly nonjudgemental, too.
May 04, 2012 Henry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
bloody entertaining
Joe Davis
Fun read if one enjoys such erudite subjects such as the smuggling of cocaine and the associated cocaine trade in New York City circa the early 1970's.....
Mar 23, 2009 Jacob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i read this a really long time ago, it blew my mind before long before it was ever blown with actual blow, etc. etc. etc.
Jan 15, 2011 Anthony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago. As far as books about the drug trade go this is one of the best.
May 28, 2014 BikerDude rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drugs
The writing was just too cute. It annoyed me.
Kelly Cross
Jan 16, 2013 Kelly Cross added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lee Cochenour
Older paperback picked up at friend's yard sale. Keeps you interested from the very the very start! Exceptional!
Oct 26, 2011 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awesome book that details a few of the smuggling operations pulled off by Zachary Swan.
Nov 16, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book, I was a customs officer at the time, smart and insightful.
Jun 08, 2008 Shauna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay so a weird book for me to read, but I think this might be the book that the movie Blow is based off of. It has been awhile since I read it, but I remember I really liked it.
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Robert Sabbag is an American author and journalist. The memoir Down Around Midnight, is about a fatal plane crash he survived in 1979. Sabbag is a member of the Authors Guild and Writers Guild of America. His film Witness Protection was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture.
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“Most people don't know what they're blowing anyway -- they know what they've been buying. You offer them pure and they won't meet your price -- they say it's shit because it doesn't look like what they're used to. So you hit it with some borax and they pay your price. But that takes time. After you unload most of it at an honest price, then you can fuck around with what's left for the sucker trade.” 1 likes
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