Tag Archives: Sinaloa Cartel

The Cartel

the cartelIt’s hard to know where to start with a book like this. The Cartel, Don Winslow’s sequel to The Power of the Dog, continues his sprawling epic story of the Mexican Drug Wars and America’s own so-called War on Drugs, began by President Nixon back in the seventies.

The good thing about The Cartel is you don’t really have to read The Power of the Dog to follow it, but I’d still recommend reading the first volume for that sense of history. Don Winslow has spent almost fifteen years researching the drug wars and brings us their stories in fictionalized form. I can remember reading The Power of the Dog and then doing my own study of the Mexican Drug Wars and realizing how many incidents from real life Mr. Winslow uses to bolster his fiction.

Both books are well worth the effort.

The Cartel opens with Adán Berrara, the fictional version of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the Sinaloa cartel leader who made news a month back by making a second escape from a Mexican maximum security prison, this time allegedly through a sophisticated tunnel leading directly to the shower section of his cell. (Don Winslow believes this is a cover story put out by the Mexican government, and judging from what I know, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.) Adán is also in prison, but in the US, awaiting trial for his many crimes. While there, his daughter dies from cystic lymphangioma, a deformation of the head, face, and throat that ultimately kills its victims. Her name is Gloria, and the other main character in these novels, DEA agent Art Keller, actually used her at the end of The Power of the Dog to capture Adán.

Gloria is everything to Adán, but the authorities won’t let him attend her funeral. So he tells his lawyer, a man with the sobriquet of Minimum Ben due to his ability to get minimum sentencing for his clients, that he’ll tell all the secrets about the drug cartels if they’ll only let him go to the funeral.

All of this sets into motion an elaborate plan that lands Adán back in a Mexican prison—Pente Grande Correctional Facility—and eventually leads to his freedom and regaining control of the Sinaloa cartel.

Art Keller, meanwhile, has retired from the DEA and is a beekeeper at a monastery in New Mexico. But when Tim Taylor, his old boss, comes by to inform him that Berrerapower of the dog has a two million dollar bounty on his head, he leaves the monastery so as not to endanger the monks there. Eventually, he’s pulled back into the DEA when Adán makes his escape by simply walking out of Pente Grande and flying away in a helicopter—the way Chapo Guzmán is said to have really escaped back in 2001, rather than being wheeled out in a laundry cart by a prison guard as we were initially told.

The Cartel covers the drug wars from 2004 to 2015, chronicling the rise of violence after Adán moves to make his Sinaloa cartel the supreme organization by killing the leader of the Gulf cartel, thus kicking off the Mexican Drug Wars. Most telling about this book is the page and a half of names, in small font, of journalists either murdered or “disappeared” during the time the story takes place. These are real life journalists, not their fictional counterparts, and Mr. Winslow has a fictional character named Pablo Mora who, along with his colleagues at a Juárez paper, stand in for these real reporters who lost their lives to the drug wars.

Just as it’s hard to know where to begin with a book like this, it’s also hard to know where to stop. I could go on and on praising this book and its prequel, but that would be overkill. Instead, I would leave off saying this: Go out, get both books, and read them. They’re big, they’re epic, and they’re worthy of space on your bookshelf, real or virtual.

Because I guarantee you’ll want to read them again.


And It Just Keeps Rollin’…

Well, Pipeline just keeps on going. I’m over 80,000 words now and starting to suspect that it’s gonna end up being a longer book than I originally thought. I was shooting for around 100,000 when I started writing, but now it’s gone up to 120,000 and there’s a slight possibility at this point that it could go higher. Lyle just got involved in a shoot-out at the border and that will complicate things as he took part in it while on the Mexican side. Can you say “international incident”? Of course, being who he is, he has help but this puts them in a delicate situation, to say the least. And to complicate matters even more, it took place at a border crossing, so the Border Patrol got involved as well. Basically some Zetas attacked a carload of Sinaloa Cartel soldiers right in front of Lyle and only about 100 feet or so from the border crossing. Since I’m writing this one seat-of-the-pants, I didn’t see this coming and I’m not sure how it’ll work out in the end. I love it!

So that’s where I’m sitting at right now: last I looked, Lyle was still sitting in an office in the Border Patrol building waiting for a phone call from his handler. Guess I’ll find out how that goes in the next couple days. At least a little bit. Like I said, it’s complicated and it could have far-reaching implications. For instance, one of the Sinaloa guys died and Lyle snatched his gun to defend himself. It was a CAR-15, though, and the question naturally arises: what the hell were they doing with one of those trying to cross the border? Keep in mind that the Sinaloa Cartel is presently the largest  of the Mexican cartels and its leader, Joaquin Guzman, escaped from a Mexican maximum security prison in 2001 and is currently living in hiding (last I saw in my research, anyway) in an anonymous town in Sinaloa with the full knowledge and protection of the mayor. He was also listed as number 701 of the world’s top 1000 richest men. Go figure.

Betcha he still won’t die of old age, though, unless they get him back in prison. And maybe not then.

You learn some scary things when you start researching things like this. Very scary.

Well, I think that about sums it up for this time around. Not much, I know, but I”m concentrating on getting the story out and that seems to leave little room for any other kind of writing, including this. Maybe having to drive into town and go to the library has something to do with it, too.