Book review:Jamaica warms heart of tough cop
Glenville Ashby, Reviewer
Title: From Corn Fields to Ganja Fields: The Journey Between
Author: Linda Botkin
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc
Reviewer: Dr Glenville Ashby
Linda Botkin weaves an intriguing tapestry of multiple themes. It is an impressive literary debut for a woman who bucked the trend, broke the glass ceiling and rose to deputy chief in Muncie, Indiana, during a period that was nothing short of perilous.
The 1970s and early 1980s saw a generation buckle under the weight of drug trafficking; corruption eroded the once august pillars of justice, and dishonour ran roughshod through the ranks of the police department. Botkin details her forays into this twisted world with enough verve that the reader understands the potential depravity of the mind and the untrustworthiness of the heart. With prosaic ease and clarity, she meanders through the labyrinth of policing a town festered with political intrigue, crooked officials, double agents, and even hitmen. Her accounts are hardly unique, but she manages to grasp our attention with deft depictions of characters and keen psychoanalytical insights.
When Botkin and her team relentlessly threatened the illegal dealings of top officials, her fear was palpable. She pens, "Pressure from all sides seemed to always be at our door. Looking over our shoulders all the time, not trusting anyone, now including the state police investigator, the FBI agent who was tipping our hand to the prosecutor's office, I slept with two guns beside my bed and one under my pillow. That is when I started wearing an ankle holster with a small .38 along with my Smith and Weston in my purse.."
Later, Botkin is bewitched by the natural beauty of Jamaica while vacationing, but not before confronting a sociological reality, a paradox of sorts, that directly impacted her work. "Jamaica had always been the Mecca of ganja growing and now, through Kingston Wharves, the largest port in the Caribbean, it had become a major trans-shipment point for cocaine coming into the US, from South America. The drug trade was controlled by the Shower Posse, who were affiliated with the Jamaica Labour Party and who controlled the port and adjoining communities of Tivoli Gardens and West Kingston. A portion of the drug shipments going into Jamaica was used to buy guns and to finance corrupt politicians, policemen and gang activities." But her love for Jamaica trumps all and she eventually migrates.
Notably, though, there is no single, monolithic theme. And this only lends to its wide appeal.
From Corn Fields to Ganja Fields is a tale of unrequited love, youthful fantasies, naïvety, domestic violence, alcoholism, and poverty. At the outset, we enter the lugubrious, threatening world of a battered young woman, pregnant, disillusioned, desperate, cowering at the incessant onslaught of her duplicitous and pugilistic husband, Dan. Here, there are enough twists and turns to befuddle us. Botkin's tale literally bleeds, serving as a classic case study of the battered woman syndrome.
On multiple levels, Botkin's work is instructive, embedded with timeless precepts and exhortations. At an early age, she experienced alcoholism in its naked form. It ravished her household, her parents, clinging to a putrid form of self-medication that led to their ruin.
Interestingly, Botkin conjures the image of the generational curse, an archetypal blight that somehow follows the offspring. Curiously, like her mother, she, too, was a victim of domestic abuse in a house that oozed alcohol.
But Botkin, clouded by violence at the hands of her father and first husband, remarkably emerged from the ashes of a cauldron that would have seared others; her definitive achievements laying waste the biblical injunction: "The Lord ... will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation."
(Numbers 14 :18)