Heroin and the West End Life, c.1935–c.1938
This chapter explores a second, different white drug culture of the later 1930s. Emerging not from bohemia but rather from the ‘West End life’, that subculture of London’s pleasure and entertainment district, this subculture was closer to the underworld of the night-time economy of the West End; drawn from a mixed class background, it was entrepreneurial and predominantly heterosexual. It was grounded in the nightclubs and bottle parties of Mayfair and Soho. Heroin was the preferred opiate and was usually sniffed (rather than injected) at social events known in the press as heroin snuff parties. This group derived its drugs illicitly from Paris and used cannabis and cocaine in addition to heroin. Its leading figure was Gerry O’Brien, an uncle of Garrett FitzGerald, later the Irish Premier. The chapter compares and contrasts the two 1930s opiate subcultures and their relationships with the control networks; it considers the complexity of historical drug subcultures and their relationships with the sexual and criminal metropolis.