Horseplay Q&A

1. Why this Story?

Sitting every day with the Granville Strip heroin users, hustling and figuring out a way to score, showed me not only the power of opiates over its users but the strength and resilience of normal individuals determined to feed their drug habit. I realized then that this determination was stronger than any Colombian Cartel and Asian crime gang, and stronger than law enforcement. Horseplay isn’t the story of down and out junkies in the back alleys of the East Side, but that of dynamic and resourceful individuals, some kind and some violent, who hustle every day to feed the drug habit that guides their lives. The heroin users of the Granville Strip represented an important part of Vancouver’s history with opiates and I wanted to tell their story.

2. Why did you call the book horseplay?

On the street, RCMP members are often referred to as “horsemen”, and “horse” is also a street term for “heroin”. The title Horseplay reflects the overarching theme of the story, which is the game drug traffickers and the police played every day on the Granville Strip. In a broader sense, it also reflects the game we play as a society, pretending to, but not really dealing with substance abuse.

3. What's the story behind the cover art?

When David Gee Book Design came up with the photo used in the cover design I immediately remembered parking my car in the back lot of the hotel, every day, wondering what lays ahead, who was inside. Parking lots tell stories. It is often the first thing we see before we enter a building. A lot-full of cars will create anticipation and excitement; an empty lot may bring apprehension and disappointment. The cars themselves give clues as to the nature of the people inside the building. The cover picture tells a story about the people who are inside. A story I could relate to.

4. What happened to everyone in the end?

The story conveys the perspective of an undercover operator who sees every relationship built over eight months eventually come to an end. I met these people under false pretence with the only purpose to collect evidence for court. As such, I never felt that I had the right to intrude into their lives beyond the operation.

 

On a broader level, the Granville Street Heroin scene of the eighties is a slice of Vancouver’s history with drugs. It’s people represented a specific, dynamic culture in a different time. Writing their story made me realize that we all deal with addiction in one form or another, yet we don’t want to meet it head-on. People understand crime and violence, and the downward spiral of drug addiction, but no one is ready for the challenges of dealing with a fully functioning addict. In the eighties, we left it to the police who were the only outsiders present in their world.

 

Working undercover, I had a front-row seat and I wanted to provide this perspective. Today we are all familiar with the down and out opiates users of tent cities in Vancouver and other major cities. They are now starting to get the support of needle exchanges and safe injection sites, but this is only the end of the road for most of them and not the journey. The story takes the readers where it all begins, and where no one pays attention. It is the story of a group of strong and capable persons facing a strong, addictive drug, before eventually lending in the back alleys or in the hospital.

 

Understanding them may help us understand how we arrived where we are now with opiate addiction.

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© 2020 Norm Boucher

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