Mysterious Book Report The Old Turks LoadThe Old Turks Load by Gregory Gibson

Mysterious Press, $24.00, 245 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2113-4

If you’re old enough to remember the late sixties, you’re certain to have memories of the so-called “Summer of Love”, the hippie movement, the birth of the drug culture, movies like Panic in Needle Park, and The French Connection, and the heroin epidemic that raged in many of the world’s cities . . . but most notably in New York City.

Heroin is an opiate derived from the alkaloid resin secreted by poppy flowers.  The vast majority of opium poppies come from the golden triangle in southeast Asia and Afghanistan.  The bulk comes from Asia, but the best opium comes from eastern Turkey.  It, and it alone, makes the highest grade pharmaceutical-quality opium and thus the most desirable heroin.  Sometimes called “China White,” the opium/heroin from eastern Turkey is the best there is, ever, at any price.  It’s the subject of this week’s Mysterious Book Report No. 105. The Old Turks Load by Gregory Gibson is a quick time trip back to 1967.  The Vietnam War was raging, flower power was about to come into full bloom and in New   York City the battle for the streets was raging between the pushers and users of heroin and the cops trying to eradicate it.  The civil rights movement and civil unrest were morphing into radical organizations like the Black Panther Party and the SDS, or Students for a Democratic Society, responsible for blowing a couple of buildings to smithereens.  Into this maelstrom of unrest mafia henchmen Vince and Woody come to the docks at Newark, New Jersey to pick up new, customized Porsche sports car shipped in from Marseille, France for a wealthy U.S. businessman.  The businessman is Angelo DiNoto, “a ruthless New Jersey crime boss,” and the Porsche—while it was being customized—has been outfitted with ten kilos of “blindingly pure artisanal smack” which was grown by an elderly Turkish farmer.  It is the Old Turk’s Load . . . worth five million dollars.  After a long afternoon filled with customs agents and customs forms, the two thugs drive away in the car and right into the Newark riots that erupted when a black cab driver was arrested by white Newark police.  The two white guys are pulled from the Porsche and beaten, the car wrecked and overturned by the rioters and Vince and Woody are taken to the hospital.  In the aftermath, the car, and the heroin wind up in the hands of Richard Mundi . . . a near-bankrupt land developer with extensive, and worthless, Newark property holdings. . . a man who’s also willing to skirt the law in the pursuit of profits.  Searching for the missing heroin, DiNoto sends Vince and Woody on a murder spree in an attempt to recover it.  In the midst of the mayhem, we’re introduced to a cast of characters who’ll keep you shaking your head and laughing out loud when you meet people like the mailman, a zoned out surgically mutilated drug addicted cancer survivor, Gloria Mundi, Richards’ daughter who thinks she’s revolutionary, Julius Roth, Mundi’s tough guy enforcer, and my personal favorite, a private investigator named Walkaway Kelly, a barfly from Hell’s Kitchen and on of the most inept PI’s to ever grace the pages of crime fiction, but one with more ability to survive than Wile E. Coyote . . .  and all of them are trying to steal the Old Turk’s Load.  This one’s a gas from the first page to the last.  By turns, it’s as funny as the Pink Panther movies or as hard-boiled as Mickey Spillane, with a double dose of Elmore Leonard thrown in for good measure.  This one’s perfect for a lazy summer day.  I’m putting Greg Gibson on my list of notables to keep my eye on because  The Old Turk’s Load is an outstanding debut.


John Dwaine McKenna