Kim Wozencraft began her career in law enforcement working undercover as a police narcotics officer in a small Texas city, and one of the very first things she learned was how to break the law. Her lieutenant taught her what turned out to be an important trick of her new trade: how to take drugs. How to prepare the heroin under a flame, how to shoot it into her arm. He didn't need to teach her how to enjoy it.

"It's part of the midnight training course that narcotics agents receive," Wozencraft says now, with no reproach in her voice. "It was a necessity... . During one case in Tyler we were buying some speed from a guy who'd gotten out of prison the day before. He was sitting there with a Colt pistol, saying, 'It's time to get down, I don't trust you guys.' "

Getting down, sharing a little bit of the contraband, is a custom, a bond of felony between the dealer and the dealt. But for Wozencraft, getting down became a habit, a "necessity" of a different kind. Before long, she was regularly smoking marijuana, popping pills, snorting and injecting cocaine, scoring whatever drugs she needed on official business with police department funds. Wozencraft was bad off, but her partner Creig -- who became her lover, and later her husband -- was wholly wasted, strung out on heroin, barely able to function. "He was going down very quickly," she says.

Yet these two were the law, or a corner of it, in Tyler, Tex. -- living under aliases, putting the word out that they were in the market for drugs, then setting up the lowlifes for the "bustout," as she calls it, delivering whatever numbers the police chief needed to look good.

When they went to the chief to confess they had serious drug problems, he told them to take a few days off and get back to their cases. When the chief pushed them to make a drug case against a local pornographer he wanted to put away, they couldn't manage it the old-fashioned way, so they simply cooked up the evidence.

Who's to say what might have happened to Wozencraft had they gotten away with the frame-up? The fact is they didn't. The FBI nailed them, and they were convicted on separate charges of perjury. She served 13 months in a federal penitentiary in Kentucky; Creig was sentenced to three years. "I deserved to go to prison," she says, dead on. "Because I manufactured a case. However confused and strung out and helpless I was at that time, what I did was wrong. And I don't regret coming forward and straightening out."

These are not empty words. The day after she was freed she flew to New York and went to school to learn how to write -- to write, first, her astonishing story. Five years later, at the end of one of those miraculous relays of enthusiasm in New York literary and publishing circles, she sits today with her first novel, "Rush," a virtual reenactment of her trip to the precipice a decade ago, docudrama in a print idiom.

Of "Rush," much is expected, not just by Random House, her publisher, but by Richard and Lili Zanuck in Hollywood, the "Driving Miss Daisy" producers who purchased the movie rights to "Rush." Robert Towne will direct the film. Pete Dexter, author of the award-winning novel "Paris Trout," is writing the screenplay. Tom Cruise, who played a convincingly wiggy person in "Born on the Fourth of July," may star as Kim's strung-out partner. And for Kim's role, the Hollywood columnists are touting Jodie Foster.

Wozencraft and Random House were paid one million dollars for the rights, hardly a normal occurrence for a first novelist, let alone for someone who was busy flushing her life down the toilet a decade ago.

It would be easy to conclude that Wozencraft is just another criminal getting rich from her misdeeds; Creig, who's straightened out and returned to Texas, is saying just that. She says it's the other way around -- she herself was the victim, not just of drugs but of a corrupting political obsession to punish their users. And though she says she worked hard to produce a good novel, it's hard not to see the apparent success of "Rush," and the chance it gives Wozencraft to start a new life, as a form of redemption.

To see Wozencraft now, in her crisp olive blouse and sensible black flats, it is hard to imagine that wretched slough in her life. It is, however, easy to picture an effective police officer. Though she is slender, her bearing conveys solidity. Her voice, though hushed, bespeaks a stony conviction. "Icily composed was how they described me in the newspapers," says the narrator, Kristen, in "Rush." You can see how someone once might have written that about Wozencraft. In those days, though, she was a practiced liar.

For Kim and Creig, the lies began their slow unraveling one bloody night 11 years ago. It happened much the way it does to Kristen Cates and Jim Raynor, the protagonists in the lightly fictionalized "Rush." By a small coincidence, it was the night of the day they -- Kim and Creig, Kristen and Jim -- had decided to split up, the night in their remote trailer "when the shotgun attack happened."

With little apparent emotion Wozencraft recalls: "About 1:30 in the morning I was awakened by a double-barreled shotgun tapping me on the forehead. The guy had us -- we were asleep. If he had just pointed and shot, we'd both be dead. But he wanted to play with us."

In the ensuing moments of terror, the intruder -- later she testified it was the pornographer they had falsely "made" on drug charges -- began shooting, blowing ragged holes in Creig's arm and leg and in Kim's arm.

"Then," Wozencraft coolly explains, "I got hold of a shotgun and started returning fire, and he took off."

Just such a scene of carnage climaxes "Rush," in one of the novel's rare overwrought scenes. "I couldn't cross the line to fiction because it was still so close," she says, though in truth the story line of the novel tracks close and parallel to her run-through of what happened in real life.

In real life, the pornographer got a 35-year sentence for the vengeful shooting -- not for the drug offense Kim and Creig had concocted against him. And in real life their brush with death glued them together for a while longer. They married a few months later, and Wozencraft joined the Air Force. She had kicked her drug habit, she says, and was preparing to begin Russian-language training, when the FBI announced it was investigating their highly irregular drug investigation back in Tyler two years before.

Presently Kim and Creig were visited by a couple of agents on the case. "They asked all the right questions" about the way the two undercover narcotics officers had delivered drug cases, by hook or by crook, to a demanding superior officer. "They seemed to know exactly what had gone on," Wozencraft recounts.

"We made a decision to tell them the truth. I think looking back on it we could have maintained our story and gotten away with it," she says, always just a notch above a whisper, but steady. "I was pretty sick with guilt. I was trying to make this new start. And I couldn't do it with that on my conscience. So we told them the truth."

Which was: that in a desperate effort to meet the police chief's quotas, to "make" the cases he wanted, they had to reach way down the drug distribution chain. "We were down to making users, not real dealers, people who were doing favors for folks they thought were their friends and fellow drug-users. Going lower and lower. Down to dime bags {of cocaine}. When every day you're saying, 'Who's got dope?' people bring all kinds of stuff over."

And which was: in the case of the framed pornographer, that "I bought cocaine from someone else, and we wrote a report saying that he had sold it to us, and we turned it in." Of this surrender to corruption, Wozencraft says with understatement, "This was something I had heard about, and knew it was done, but I hadn't until that point anticipated it."

She adds, "By this time both of us were pretty strung out."

The chief who pressured them got off; "Texas justice," she says. The pornographer was released; even if he had tried to kill the police officers, their testimony against him was now tainted. And Kim and Creig went to prison, did their time and eventually went their separate ways.

Wozencraft has not remarried. "I'm being careful this time around," she says, her manner seeming to add, careful about everything. She wants most of all to be a writer. In a sudden burst of self-consciousness about her monologue, she declares, almost with gaiety, "I don't usually do this. I just sit in front of my computer."

The manuscript she first completed was 600 pages long, she says, and unpublishable. Eventually Wozencraft got some advice from Robert Towers, at Columbia University's graduate writing program: "Basically, throw out the first 300 pages" consisting of "autobiographical stuff" and lots of "telling" instead of "taking people to a place and letting them see it instead of sitting back and saying, 'This shouldn't be the case,' or, 'This is wrong.' ... At times it was just this diatribe against the criminal justice system."

Her book, several revisions later, is remarkably free of such lecturing, though Wozencraft is not bashful about answering when she is asked about the criminal justice system, and particularly about the war on the narcotics trade. Her account, for instance, should make the public wonder whether drug use, or even drug abuse, isn't an unavoidable hazard for any officer whose effectiveness, and perhaps his life, depends on keeping the trust of dealers.

"I'm not trying to cast any aspersions on narcotics officers. A lot of times they are very good people who get sucked into this thing with no idea what they're getting into. And once they're into it, they don't know how to get out of it until they're shuffled out the back door to deal with their problems -- alone. They're victims," Wozencraft says.

She says "nobody knows how powerful drugs are until they've actually experienced what it's like to be at the mercy of a powder, to need it so desperately that you're willing to do violence."

And her remedy for the drug problem?

"Legalize it," she says, impassively.

She tells a story.

"When I was in graduate school I lived in one of the worst drug neighborhoods in Manhattan. It's called Manhattan Valley. I lived down the hall from a crack dealer ... and every day I would walk past crackheads. I had heard about all this violent behavior, but the only thing these people ever did when I walked by -- it was just a little 4-by-4 area between two doors -- was they tried to get out of the way. They said 'excuse me' or 'we're sorry,' and let me walk through.

"The violence is the result of the laws against it and the difficulty in obtaining it. I'm not advocating drug use. It's horrible. Horrible." She stops a second. "It robs you of your capacity to feel joy."

Another story from the apartment building, about a pregnant mother on crack:

"This woman went into labor. Her 7-year-old daughter came to my apartment and said, 'Can you come and help.' I walked down to her apartment and she was sick and bleeding... . I called an ambulance and they took her to the hospital... .

"There were two weeks of silence from this apartment and finally I heard a baby crying. I went down to visit and here was this beautiful child. I was thrilled that she was alive and had survived it. A couple of days later her older daughter knocked on my door again. She had the baby with her. She said, 'I'm scared. I'm at home alone. Can I stay with you for a while?'

"So I was holding this baby and it was showing this kind of hypersensitivity that crack babies have. And I couldn't help but think that if this woman, instead of buying the crack on the street, had gone to a center to get the drug, maybe somebody there could have helped her, educated her about what she was doing and gotten her into a support situation, so she could have some kind of chance in the world. Because as it is now she has none."