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December 14, 1986|David Johnston

THE FIX: INSIDE THE WORLD DRUG TRADE by Brian Freemantle (Tor Books: $16.95; 352 pp.). This fall, a news story from Scranton, Pa., made a brief blip on the news wires. It was an important story that should have gotten much more attention, as well as being useful to those interested in the world drug trade, the subject of Brian Freemantle's book "The Fix."

It seems that the owner of Air America, once the proud and secret property of the CIA, is a big-time cocaine trafficker. Frederick Luytjes, 38, has pleaded guilty in Scranton to cocaine smuggling and is in protective custody. One of his pilots, John F. Robertson III, 39, of Palos Verdes, pleaded guilty to a single drug trafficking charge and gave up $8 million from a five-year conspiracy that smuggled 7 1/2 tons of cocaine into the United States from Colombia.

You won't read about them or others with close ties to our national government in "The Fix," which offers readers the official (or at best semi-official) version of events in the world of drug trafficking. And as every reporter worth his ink soon learns, the official version of events may not be a lie, but it is almost never anywhere near the truth.

On its cover, "The Fix" proclaims that the British author ("a major international journalist") got help from Ronald Reagan's White House, the FBI, British and Irish police, and a lot of other government sources so he could "identify by name the world's major drug traffickers." Mostly, though, it appears Freemantle had the help of a lot of news clippings, the names he names having already made the front page of this and many other newspapers. Freemantle does provide a fair amount of interesting material about how openly drugs are sold on the streets of major American cities, and on how drug trafficking supports revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries and even whole governments.

But "The Fix" is also a simile for contraband drugs: The hype on the cover promises a real literary high, but the stuff isn't that good and, afterwards, it leaves the buyer feeling empty and longing for some real substance.

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