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Excellent capsule history of the failed war on drugs
on June 6, 2005
Don Winslow's latest book (after _California Fire and Life_), _The Power of the Dog_, is an epic look at the US war on drugs from its earliest beginnings to more recent times. The book is violent and thrilling and heart-breaking, as it follows a large cast of characters from the early 1970s through 2004, showing how the competing interests and agendas of various government agencies (the CIA, the DEA, etc.) get in the way of successfully combatting the problem, and often only served to make things much worse.
Art Keller, the book's protagonist, is a half-Hispanic DEA agent who grew up in the San Diego barrio and saw the effects of drugs on his friends and family firsthand. As a rookie agent, he makes the mistake of befriending Don Miguel Angel Barrera, one of the top Mexican policemen, in an effort to topple the reigning drug kingpin. Barrera proceeds to move into the subsequent power vacuum and sets up La Federaccion, a much more well-organized and deadly organization than previously existed, and run by his two nephews, the intelligent and sensitive Adan, and the flashy and violent Raul.
This sets in motion a 30-year vendetta on Keller's part, as he attempts to take down the Barreras and atone for his mistake, a vendetta that will lead to the deaths of numerous innocent parties along the way, and to Keller's estrangement from his own wife and children.
The book was a very fast-moving, though extremely violent novel. In a little over 500 pages, Winslow does an amazing job of encapsulating a lot of recent history, including the Camarena murder, the Iran-Contra scandal, and other related events, into a very readable and entertaining novel, one of the best I've read recently. If you're not too squeamish, I'd highly recommend the book.