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At the Devil's Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel Hardcover – June 21, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Advanced Praise for At the Devil's Table:

“A fast-paced, heart-racing nonfiction thriller.”—Kirkus Reviews

"In this powerful and riveting work of nonfiction, William Rempel demonstrates the virtues of investigative reporting. Gaining access to the figure that could—and indeed did—spill the secrets that brought down a cartel, Rempel has an extraordinary story to tell. He not only takes the reader inside the hidden world of the drug cartels. He also provides a fascinating character study of a man who must answer a simple harrowing question: Should he risk his life in order to save his soul, or should he keep a pact with the devil?"—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

“Bill Rempel has earned his reputation as one of America's finest investigative reporters the old fashioned way -- by getting people to tell him explosive stories they won't talk about with anyone else. At the Devil's Table brings Rempel's skills to the fore as never before, revealing the graphic details of Colombia's bloody drug wars from the ultimate insider. By the end, you realize that the biggest mystery is how Jorge Salcedo stayed alive long enough to tell Rempel about his amazing life.”—James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

“This fast-paced, beautifully crafted piece of storytelling is filled with unexpected twists and genuine humanity. Rempel weaves extraordinary access to the ruthless world of the drug cartels into a gripping and elegant work of true crime and redemption. In the hands of a masterful reporter and storyteller, even readers familiar with the forbidden realms of traffickers are in for a thrill-ride of surprises with some of the most intriguing characters in non-fiction.”—Douglas Frantz, federal investigator and co-author of The Nuclear Jihadist and Fallout

About the Author

William C. Rempel spent thirty-six years as an investigative reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times. Rempel has been recognized with numerous journalism honors, including an Overseas Press Club Award, and a Gerald Loeb Award, and he was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition first Printing edition (June 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068371
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068371
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter G. Keen on May 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Within its intended limits of investigative journalism, this is a first-rate book and I strongly recommend it. It is a narrative review of the Cali drug cartel during the 1990s. It does not address the wider context of the global drug trade, the policy issues, or the mechanisms of the cocaine trade. These are subordinate to the viewpoint of the central character, Jorge Salcedo, an insider close to the heads of the cartel family and who became their electronic security expert. He portrays himself as a man who had noble intentions in helping the Cali gang fight back against Pablo Escobar, the notorious and almost unbelievably brutal head of the dominant Medellin cartel. He avoided involvement in the cocaine trade and its inherent stream of murders and kept his hands fairly clean. Little by little, he became so entrapped that he was locked into the family as its tightly controlled minion, with death the routine punishment for any effort to "resign." Finally, as the U.S. government began to disrupt the cartel, despite the widespread corruption in the police, military, government and judiciary - the family even bought itself the Presidential election and seems to have had around a third of Cali's public officials on retainer -- Salcedo is able to make his break and help a pair of DEA agents capture the head of the cartel family.

The story is his recollection of events as revealed to a well-respected LA Times reporter over a number of years, almost entirely by phone - Salcedo is well tucked away in the Federal Witness Protection program - and supplemented with other material, including from the many, many trials that he and other key insiders provided. It's a complex and compelling story that makes Goodfellas, the Sopranos and even the Godfather look almost quaint.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the Devil's Table, by William C. Rempel, is the true story of the downfall of the Cali Cartel, as seen through the eyes of the Jorge Salcedo, the security chief for head Godfather, Don Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela. A journalist by trade, Rempel used telephone interviews with Salcedo cross referenced and fact-checked with other primary and secondary sources, resulting in a book that reads more like a thriller than a work of non-fiction.

And the Cali Cartel's ex-security chief is truly the perfect inside man to tell the story. As Rempel tells it, Salcedo was unwittingly drawn into the cartel's service.

For Salcedo, Medellín drug lord, Pablo Escobar's, reign of terror hit too close to home. When it was clear that the Colombian government wasn't at all serious about capturing and prosecuting Escobar, Salcedo was outraged. Embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Escobar, Cali's drug lords wanted to strike back. As a businessman who helped line up security and defense contracts for Colombia and other Latin American countries, Salcedo was in a position to help them achieve their goals. When an old, army buddy roped Salcedo into a meeting with the Cali bosses, Jorge thought he would use his skills, off Escobar, and then go back to civilian life. Little did he know, that he would be gripped by an undercurrent that pulled him into the cartel, without an easy way to escape.

The book tells about Salcedo's initiation into the cartel, his rise as head of security for Don Miguel, and his eventual escape from the cartel by cooperating with the DEA. The book details the events as they occurred. It tells the story of Salcedo's forging a pact with the devil and gives you the nail biting account of Salcedo's cooperation with the U.S.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was floored by this insider's story of a Colombian drug cartel. I didn't know much about drug cartels other than being ruthless, but At the Devil's Table really brought to light the true livelihood of a life in the drug cartels.

Rempel's book took many years in the making as he slowly pieced together the life of Jorge Salcedo as a member of the Cali Cartel. At times you wonder if Salcedo is trying to save face, trying to make himself not a part of the Cali Cartel, at least the violent part of it, but then you immediately brush it aside and accept Rempel's story for what it is: a career man sucked in to the life of violence, unable to extricate himself. What is truly astonishing is how important he was to the Cali Cartel's main boss, Miguel Rodriguez, as his chief of security, and the amount of intel he was able to take in just from being close to the big man and trusted and accepted by everyone else.

Of course he wasn't privy to all the details of the cartel, such as most of the trafficking as well as the violence and death that was meted out as though it was just anther day in the park. But what we do get is a man who knows intimate details of those that the Cali cartel interacted with, either through first hand or through a second hand source. As his importance grew within the cartel so did the responsibilities expected of him, which is where he drew the line at murder. Rempel makes a point to tell the reader that Salcedo knew he was taking part in dubious acts, like plotting the murder of Pablo Escobar, or aiding and abetting serious crimes. Made a point of showing that he always justified it in his head, by playing the hero figure or protecting lives and families.
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