Picks and Pans Review: The Last Run

updated 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Kay Wolff and Sybil Taylor

In September 1969, Kay Wolff (a pseudonym) sold her Mustang, left her dog with a friend and headed from Los Angeles to Bogota, Colombia. She planned to settle, see the sights, maybe find a job teaching art. She was young, pretty and primed for adventure. Within a month she found it. She became the mistress of the son of a Colombian drug lord, whom she had met at an art gallery. And, as she vividly details in this nonfiction saga, Wolff began working in Colombia's national industry, transporting cocaine almost immediately.

Wolff learned the lessons of the trade well. She sold the powder by the kilo, shipping it out of the country hidden in suitcases, backpack liners, diaper bags and car trunks. She was a first-class runner, daring and instinctive. The money came in as fast as the coke went out, and Wolff was soon deep within a cocaine cartel family, feeling the rush of excitement that came with the terrain. Finally, she felt the terror, too: In time, Wolff was strung out on the drug she was peddling, and the threat of drug-world violence brought her near collapse. In less than a year she was plotting her escape; claiming that one of the two street children she had adopted needed dental care, she left Colombia for Miami.

Taylor, a New York-based writer, didn't corroborate Wolffs story, so its details, while plausible, can't be taken as gospel. But Taylor's adroit handling makes the tale seem tragic in content yet universal in scope, contrasting Wolff the average American woman with Wolff the conscienceless cog in a drug machine. The sketchy details of Wolffs early life, hindered by Taylor's flat style, fail to keep pace with the energy level of the rest of the book. The Last Run is at its best in showing how easily a young woman with street smarts can learn the ropes about dope. The events leading to Wolffs escape are right out of Midnight Express, one missed connection away from a fatal bullet.

Wolff is now living in California, drug-free, working at a university and raising her two adopted daughters. As Taylor notes, most of the dealers Wolff knew are continuing business as usual. (Viking, $18.95)

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