Hot Valley Days and Cocaine Nights

Part of the fun of my job is getting to review so many different titles. The hard part is there is so much great material available, it is difficult to catch everything that is released. Such is the case with Antarctica Publishing’s Hot Valley Days and Cocaine Nights. Coming March 2nd, the third and final issue of this series comes out.  Let’s do a quick recap.

Hot Valley Days and Cocaine Nights tells the true story of a young girl named Janie. Her true name had been concealed at her request. During the 1980’s, this 15 year old girl hitchhiked from Ohio to California. Leaving behind a younger brother and two sisters, an un-attentive mother and a deadbeat father. Not to mention a lecherous grandfather. In fact, it was right after she stopped her grandfather from abusing her younger sister that she left. A chair across the face will tend to do that.

Once she arrived, she had no plan what to do after that. She started out sleeping on park benches, and scraping by with odd jobs. A convenience store, an aerobics class, and a part time job at a media company. However, in time, she became one of the leading dealers of Cocaine in Los Angeles County. So how did a young girl from Ohio come to such a life? That’s the story Hot Valley Days and Cocaine Nights tells.

Janie’s Story

Writer Matthew Spradlin structured his story (based on a story from Sean DeMott) to move back and forth in time. All the better to explain how Janie came to her profession. She was a shrewd business woman who knew her market and was willing to put in the work it required. She learned this work ethic early in her life. Janie quickly learned that NOTHING would be given to her. If she wanted anything, she had to work for it. Hence she mowed lawns, sold Lemonade or did other odd jobs to earn her money. And even then, she was always aware if someone was attempting to take advantage of her or cheat her. Janie would not have it. And while she loved her brother Tommy and her younger sisters, she didn’t baby them. If they asked her for money, she would quickly advise them that they needed to work for their money. Just like she did.

Making Connections

Another of her strengths was organization. Janie was uber organized. Her childhood bedroom reflected that, which was not easy with younger siblings. But this attention to detail became would important in her new California career. She did bring her brother Jimmy over to California to stay with her. But she expected him to do what she needed him to do…to pull his weight. She started out making connections through her part time gig working at the media company. She would sell their wares to her fellow workers and make even bigger connections. After Jimmy came aboard, they hooked up with a Colombian Drug dealer named Matias. Jimmy had told him about their business and it was Matias hope that Janie could make connections with high rollers in the film and music industry. People who could afford their merchandise.

 

Of course, Janie, while reluctant to take on outside partners, took on most of the responsibilities herself. Trips to New York, transporting the drugs, whatever it took. Even if it meant taping the drugs to her body. It wasn’t her intention to get this deep into the business. But the money was so good, it was hard to stop. In time, Jimmy kept bringing other people into their circle. Much to the chagrin of Janie. Because while she loved Jimmy, he had a hard time understanding the concept of  “told in confidence.”

The Business Plan

Each of these new additions had a function. Her friend Erik’s job was to make connections in the music business. When he wasn’t laying on her couch. However, Erik was one of the few people she trusted. Their partnership worked well. Jimmy’s new friend Zack was supposed to pull in the bankers, doctors, lawyers and CEO’s. High rollers who lived their lives 100 miles per hour and needed the Coke to fuel their desires. Janie didn’t trust Zack. She felt that he was more flamboyant about what they were selling than she would have preferred. But he did make sales…damn it!

In the beginning, most of the business was waiting. Jimmy was always good at that. But Janie was the brains. She had a plan for every contingency. Which was a good because as one might expect, the cocaine business was dangerous. Even with high profile clients. That was especially true now that she was tied into Matias. Fortunately, Janie had gotten good at what she does, but she did carry some of her baggage from her youth.

She had absolutely no tolerance for abusive men. She didn’t take it from her relatives, she sure as hell wouldn’t take it from a stranger. Even if it wasn’t directed at HER. In fact, it cost her some business because her perspective client was abusive to his woman. Which would have been fine except that Matias expected her to make that sale. Oops!

Calling it Quits

Fortunately for Janie, luck seemed to smile on her. As much as luck can in such a business. In this case, Matias was more interested in results than reasons for setbacks. She had been a good source for sales before. He would allow her to fix the problem. So that is what she did. That is what she always did, and business was good. Until she finally decided she had enough. She let Matias know as much.

In truth, she had thought when she broke the news, that would be the end of her. You don’t walk away from a Colombian drug lord that easily. But for some reason, walk away she did. Perhaps they assumed she would come back. That she needed them. If they thought that, they didn’t know Janie at all. She left them the key to her room with all of their money and drugs. But not before keeping the combination of the safe in her room. She withheld that until she was safe at an airport. Forever thinking was Janie.

The Dominos Kept Falling

At the same time this was going on, the dominos were stating to fall amongst her group. Zack was arrested at his home. He received a pizza delivery that came with an arrest warrant. The drugs found on the premises didn’t help. One by one, those in her circle were being apprehended. This kept her on the move. She told Erik to make himself scarce and did the same with Jimmy. She then called Matias to tell him that he had better take care of their stash of drugs they kept in an old camper. He assured her he would. Sure enough, Janie found the camper gone. Any evidence that tied her to the drugs had been cleaned up. But still she kept moving. Surely the police would come calling. It was just a matter of time.

Luck be a Janie

Once again, fortune favored her and the repercussions she expected never came. Which was more than she could say for Matias, or even Jimmy. They both were arrested. Jimmy mainly because he continued to sell drugs even when he knew the heat was on. Poor decisions lead to bad results.

As far as Janie goes, she made only one mistake. She had allowed herself to get pregnant. All the more reason to get out of the business. Which she did. In the long run, Janie was still pretty smart.

Thoughts

First and foremost, this series is for mature readers. The 1980’s in Hollywood was a serious place where drugs, women, and danger went hand in hand. Janie’s story encompassed it all and writer Spradlin didn’t sugar coat it. So language, nudity, sex, and drugs are all displayed. If this were a film it would no doubt be R-Rated. But speaking of films…

This series is presented in an almost theatrical framework. To accomplish it, the artist they used had to be up to the task. In fact, Matt mentioned in our recent interview that the  artist they chose had actually never done a full book before. Well he has now and Farid Karami brought his A+ game.

His portrayal of the characters and situations were done with such great detail it was almost jaw dropping. And when combined with the equally impressive color work of Andrew Crossley, it made for a tale that is both seductive and shocking at the same time. It just sucks you in. For you mature readers, it’s well worth checking out.

Hot Valley Days and Cocaine Nights Number 3 comes out March 2nd from Antarctic Publishing.

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