hotel scarface

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Miami was the eye of the storm where cocaine trafficking was concerned and the pupil in the eye of the storm was Coconut Grove’s Mutiny at Sailboat Bay, an upmarket club where Hollywood royalty, rock stars and supermodels snorted lines of white powder alongside narcos, hitmen and the Kings of the underworld. It was a time of insane hedonism, cruel greed and unimaginable violence, and at the centre of it all were a new wave of Cuban immigrants who would stop at nothing to maintain control of ‘one of the most lucrative commodities ever known to man’. But, as gang rivalries turned the city’s sun-drenched streets into a 24/7 battleground, law enforcement agents moved in and began using the dealer’s ruthlessness against them.

Hotel Scarface is Miami Vice come to life, and it’s all the more potent because every word of it is true. It’s a fascinating and sometimes bizarre story (who knew that cocaine importation could be so incredibly easy?) told through the eyewitness recollections of the Mutiny’s mostly shady clientele, and although the sheer number of characters sometimes threatens to become overwhelming (it’s hard to keep up with all the different names, even if author Roben Farzad does provide a helpful ‘cast of characters’ at the front of the book) the main thrust of the tale is always kept sharply in focus. This isn’t just the biography of the Mutiny, it is a detailed snapshot of the disco-era cocaine trade and how the hubris and over-indulgence of its key players brought the marching powder capital to its knees, and Farzad’s prose style is muscular and exciting – this is a complex account that moves fast, is never less than engrossing, and doesn’t rely upon the reader’s prior knowledge: don’t worry, even if you’re new to the subject you won’t be left behind. Farzad’s research is impeccable and he writes tremendously well.

Fans of true crime or a certain “Say hello to my little friend!” Brian De Palma movie are guaranteed to get sniffy about this in the very best way.