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The Cartel (Vintage Crime: Black Lizard) Paperback – May 31, 2016
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One of the Best Books of the Year: A New York Times Critics’ Pick, The Seattle Times, The Denver Post, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Amazon, National Post (Toronto), The Guardian, New Statesman, The Telegraph, The Sunday Times (London), The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday
The New York Times
“Winslow’s drug war version of The Godfather . . . A big, sprawling, ultimately stunning crime tableau . . . A magnum opus . . . Don Winslow is to the Mexican drug wars what James Ellroy is to L.A. Noir.”
“An epic, gritty south-of-the-border Godfather for our time. You don’t have to read Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog to get swept away by The Cartel, its ripped-from-the-headlines sequel, but you should. You should try to get your hands on everything Winslow’s written, because he’s one of the best thriller writers on the planet.”
“Hugely hypnotic new thriller . . . the pace and feel of an exploded documentary . . . a brilliant and informative work of fiction about a nightmare world that flourishes in the bright light of day.”
“A Game of Thrones of the Mexican drug wars, a multipart, intricately plotted, blood-soaked epic that tells the story of how America’s unquenchable appetite for illegal drugs has brought chaos to our southern neighbors and darkened our own political and criminal culture.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Winslow’s riveting and tragic epic seamlessly blends fact and fiction to tell [an] incredible, heartbreaking story. . . . Winslow never loses control of his subject or his characters, despite the book’s scope and complexity. There is some of The Godfather here, but Winslow’s characterizations, though certainly multidimensional, have more of an edge to them than do Puzo’s, a greater recognition of the tragedy a violent power struggle leaves in its wake. Clearly one of the most ambitious and most accomplished crime novels to appear in the last 15 years,The Cartel will likely retain that distinction even as the twenty-first century grinds on.”
“The Cartel is the most important crime saga of the millennium. This is reporting and expose built around an intricate plot, finely etched characters and whip-crack dialogue. . . . Storytelling that matters.”
“Sensationally good, even after the near-perfection of The Power of the Dog. Less of a sequel than an integral part of a solid-gold whole.”
“Winslow is the most fearless chronicler of the chaos and violence along the U.S.-Mexico border . . . who has written what could be the War and Peace of the War on Drugs.”
“The Cartel tells its ghastly story with enjoyable verve yet I was even more impressed with the way Winslow uses his plot to offer a superb history of the cartels and those out to stop them. Steeped in reportage, the novel. . . possesses a virtue I associate with traditional documentaries: it explains things. I finished the book understanding why Juárez is so violent; why cartels murder so many innocent people; why both the American and Mexican governments favor some cartels over others; and why the war on drugs is not just futile, but morally compromised. It’s here that fiction and documentary come together in a shared sense of, well, bleakness.”
“Don Winslow has done it again. The Cartel is a first rate edge-of-your-seat thriller for sure, but it also continues Winslow’s incisive reporting on the dangers and intricacies of the world we live in. There is no higher mark for a storyteller than to both educate and entertain. With Winslow these aspects are entwined like strands of DNA. He’s a master and this book proves it once again.”
Los Angeles Times
“Winslow has delivered two of the most . . . emotionally resonant novels in the past decade, 2005’s The Power of the Dog and its epic conclusion, The Cartel. . . . His prose is sparse and ferocious, and his rapid-fire story hits you like bullets from an AK-47.”
“High-octane . . . The righteous indignation that fuels Winslow’s tale of cops, cartels, and the near-apocalyptic havoc they can create is, to use a sadly appropriate word, addictive.”
“Don Winslow delivers his longest and finest novel yet in The Cartel. This is the War and Peace of dopewar books. Tense, brutal, wildly atmospheric, stunningly plotted, deeply etched. It’s got the jazz dog feel of a shot of pure meth!!”
The Sunday Times (London)
“Astoundingly ambitious . . . It is unlikely to be bettered this year.”
—John Dugdale (Thriller of the Month)
“With corruption, violence, and a love story to boot, [The Cartel] is sure to have you grasping at the edge of your seat.”
“Winslow has long been hailed for his hard-boiled humor and storytelling, and this sequel to the best-selling The Power of the Dog shows why. . . . The coke-fueled, blood-soaked horror show that ensues would scare Tony Montana straight.”
“The Cartel is a gut-punch of a novel. Big, ambitious, violent and wildly entertaining, Don Winslow’s latest is an absolute must-read.”
Los Angeles Magazine
“An adrenaline rush, addictive as crack, and epic in the pre-Del-Taco-marketing-their-burritos-as-“epic” sense of the word. Don Winslow deals in corruption, subversion, and revenge with an intensity that makes him irresistible.”
“The Cartel is an intricately detailed narrative of the cartel life. . . . Winslow has become an unintentional expert on a subject that sickens him.”
The Huffington Post
“A sprawling epic of drug trafficking, murder, coercion, and corruption at the highest levels of Mexican law enforcement and government. . . . A grand and gripping epic novel.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune
“A monster of a novel—big in story, big in ambition. Based on real events, it’s unavoidably violent but not voyeuristic. There is a deep understanding of the bonds and betrayals inherent to the drug trade, considerable musing about the difference between vengeance and justice, and a recognition that even in the face of soul-sapping depravity, there can be nobility and courage.”
Sunday Herald (Scotland)
“The Cartel offers a riveting expose of a modern tragedy where the fast pace of the thriller narrative never stumbles over the painstaking attention paid to detail and background. More importantly perhaps, they offer an alternative perspective on the accepted history of America’s involvement in the ‘war on drugs’, a shocking litany of greed, complicity and political machination. . . . Winslow [writes with] the authority of an investigative reporter and the narrative skill of a best-selling author.”
MysteryPeople (Pick of the Month)
“Winslow deftly uses violence in the novel, fully aware of how much he asks the reader to act as witness. . . . The denouncement gives The Wild Bunch a run for its money in the final showdown category. He builds up to these moments beautifully, creating emotion and setting the stage for visceral attitude when such scenes explode. . . . For a mammoth novel, The Cartel moves. Winslow never loses his humanity and rage as he sweeps across a decade of rough shadow history to the wounded grace note it ends on. It captures everything great about crime fiction and makes it epic.”
“[A] vast and ambitious thriller . . . Winslow has envisioned his novel on an epic scale. . . . At heart, this is the familiar tale of symbiosis between pursuer and pursued, reconfigured for the war on drugs and given a mean noir edge.”
Barnes and Noble Review
“Don Winslow is one of those shape-shifter novelists; now light, now dark. Funny one minute, terrifying the next. . . . A Wagernian epic of murder and vengeance . . . The Cartel is as much a work of meticulous journalism as artful fiction. But through the blood haze and the political fog, Winslow allows us to see—and even to care about—his skillfully drawn characters.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Masterly . . . This exhaustively researched novel elucidates not just the situation in Mexico but the consequences of our own disastrous 40-year ‘war on drugs.’”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The Chicago Tribune
“This is the big one . . . the El Niño, tsunami and San Andreas Fault shaker of drug novels rolled into one—a 600 page immersion that may leave you thinking you knew next to nothing about its seamy subject. . . . The Cartel is so relentlessly paced, its probing of daily evil so deep, you’re drawn in whether you like it or not.”
“The book is as gruesome a read as it is insightful, chock-full of research into the organization and tactics of cartels and their (at times) strikingly similar governmental opponents. It is disturbing, and it is based in large part on actual events.”
The Seattle Times
“If you have managed to shield your eyes and plug your ears against what’s been going on with the war on drugs in Mexico, Don Winslow’s searing new novel The Cartel will tear off the blinders. . . . This reader stuck with The Cartel to the end because it says something important.”
—Mary Ann Gwinn
“[The Cartel] is brutal, graphic, and well-researched, with many of the more gruesome acts based on real events. But there is something else that characterizes Winslow’s work. Beyond genre, there is musicality to his prose; staccato sentences that draw the reader in immediately.”
“Don Winslow affirms his status as one of the best American writers with The Cartel. . . . Devilishly plotted and exhaustingly vivid . . . Winslow’s style, efficient and undeniable as a bullet, keeps you hanging on through the most labyrinthine plot twists. And there are plot twists.”
Bill O'Reilly (Factor Tip of the Day)
“[The Cartel] gives, perhaps, the clearest insight I’ve ever seen into the corruption that has nearly ruined the country of Mexico. Very tough book, but if you want to know what’s going on south of the border it is a must read.”
“I’m totally swept up. You can’t ask for more emotionally moving entertainment.”
“Winslow is a prolific author.”
“The dark side of the U.S./Mexican drug wars [from] the gritty author of The Power of the Dog . . . Expect violence, gore—and revenge.”
National Post (Toronto)
“Despite an impressive amount of research and its epic scope, The Cartel still readily embraces its old roots in the thriller genre. The old comforts you might find in Michael Connelly or Elmore Leonard are still here. . . . Terrifying.”
—Andrew F. Sullivan
San Francisco Chronicle
“Could not be more timely.”
“[Winslow’s] story feels less like a product of the imagination than an exhaustively researched bit of journalism. Which it is—a kind of true story set in the recognizable horror show of Mexico narco-terrorism.”
Santa Barbara Independent
“By securely grounding his fiction in fact, Winslow achieves a level of emotional truth and illustrates the hard challenges and brutal ironies of the decades-old dope war in a way that few works of nonfiction can match. . . . If you care about the nature of crime and justice in today’s America and the steep price that the men and women on the front lines of the War on Drugs pay to preserve the law and maintain a semblance of order, then pick up The Cartel and spend some time with the author’s dark vision.”
“One of America’s best crime novelists.”
Cinephilia & Beyond
“[Winslow is] the leading American thriller writer of his generation. . . . What emanates from his writing . . . is a sense of humanity, of emotions under the surface, of the ever-going ambition to understand society, what drives people to do what they do, to explore what’s in their nature that makes them behave the way people have been behaving from the dawn of time. . . . It’s this warmth and compassion that makes Winslow one of the best contemporary novelists just as much as his writing does. . . . Whatever you feel gives life to the books of Don Winslow—be it nail-biting action scenes, detailed and thought-out characterizations of the people at the center of his stories or the abundance of details that lends his writing astonishing authenticity and credibility—one thing remains certain. The Cartel is going to blow our minds and leave us wanting for more.”
“The opening scene of Don Winslow’s The Cartel takes hold like a vise, and for the next 600 pages the book keeps a tight grip as it takes the reader into the underbelly of America’s 30-year war on drugs. . . . Like the journalists he praises, Winslow’s grasp of the material is impressive and has a nonfiction quality. . . . Winslow educates without being heavy handed or preachy. . . . While it is epic in scope, the writing has an intimacy and the characters, even the most evil, feel authentic. It’s a story that is hard to shake even when you’re done. And that is a good thing because this book shouldn’t be forgotten.”
“The Cartel may be to Mexican drug lords of today what The Godfather was to the Mafia in the 1960s and 1970s—a great story full of compelling characters, as well as a good way to learn about the motives and methods of a super-violent criminal organization.”
—John J. Miller
Library Journal (starred review)
“Winslow’s two-novel project about this still-raging conflict is entertaining, well researched, and difficult to process, a jarring glimpse into a reality about which many Americans remain blissfully unaware.”
About the Author
Bestselling author Don Winslow has written nineteen books and numerous short stories, as well as writing for television and film. A former private investigator and trial consultant, Winslow lives in Southern California.
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"The Cartel" is the second part of this monumental series, and because the first part is highly suggested as the first one to read, although "The Cartel" stands on its own, I will not get into too many plot details. The primary character, Art Keller, who has many notches on his own belt due to fighting in Vietnam and battles in the "War on Drugs", is a marked man having crossed every drug kingpin of note in Mexico and their paid lackeys like federal troops, corrupt politicians and police forces on all levels, not to mention the extremely violent paramilitary troops who enforce the wishes of the leaders of the notorious Zetas, a cartel that has absolutely no code of honor whatsoever. Whereas the other main character, the head of the Sinoloan cartel, the very crafty and intelligent Adan Barrera, at least gives the impression of leaving innocents alone, the Zetas kill anybody any time, including little street level junkies who are found guilty of buying their dope from Barerra's cartel instead of them, and vice versa.
We can remember the horrible wars that racked Cuidad Juarez, the border city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, where murders were being committed by the scores of victims, many mutilated and tortured and then dismembered and left on city streets as "lessons" for whatever infraction the cartels thought up on any given day. Winslow reports that in this phase of the internecine fighting, as many as close to 16000 Juarez citizens were gruesomely murdered in the space of just a couple of years. While that calamity has subsided somewhat, the worst border crimes focusing in Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, TX, where access to I-35, San Antonio, I-10 with its paths to Houston, New Orleans and beyond to Jacksonville, Florida is a temptation they can't ignore. Border agents, DEA agents and others are corrupted and many times because they want to live another day, so as we all know, the "war" on drugs is nothing but a lot of hot air, token busts, and was never designed to stop anything. There is simply far too much money to be made, and the U.S.' appetite for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana is gargantuan. We as the consumers of these substances are just as culpable if we do use illicit drugs as the cartels, as they are only too happy to make tons of money and have huge international influence on whole governments while they're at it.
The book itself is so well written and researched that it truly belongs in the pantheon of the greatest crime novels or historical crime books, like "The Godfather" for the thrilling story and suspense, and "Wiseguys" and "Casino" for accuracy and explaining just how vicious and just plain psycho cartel bosses and their underlings can be. That the Mexican government is up to its eyeballs in the drug trade is not news, but one can't help but maybe feel a bit of empathy for some in said government and law enforcement who are paid to play, or brutally murdered, and oftentimes forced to watch their families die first. It isn't much of a choice.
Nonetheless, Winslow is a superb author, the two books gripping, and I can't wait to read his other novels. Be forewarned: "The Power of the Dog" and "The Cartel" are upsetting, depressing and disturbing. It's a story that needs to be told, however, and we must understand that as long as there is a demand for any kind of product or services, regardless of how dangerous or sinister, there will be a supply. It's a frustrating cycle that humanity bestowed upon itself.
THE CARTEL is dark, it's gritty, it's sexually explicit and it's unrelenting in brutal violence as it peals back the flesh on the harsh realities of the failed war on drugs.
There is no such things as good guys in this story, only bad guys and even worse bad guys. Everyone is corrupt, everyone has a rotted soul and very, very few get out of this world alive.
While not quite up to the level of excellence of its predecessor (THE POWER OF THE DOG), THE CARTEL is still one of the better new books I have read this year. Just like the first book, this one is very broad, dense, with a worldwide sprawl in its depiction of the war on drugs, with Mexico being the primary source of action.
While this book will keep you guessing and never fails to pull off surprise after surprise, I almost felt like it was too over reaching at times and went maybe a hundred pages too long. I felt like the whole subplot with Pablo and the reporters was unnecessary. Sure, the newspapers play a key part in the story, but I didn't feel like it needed to be as lengthy as a subplot with them, as what we got.
Still though, this book is awesome! I highly recommend it if you want a book that feels completely real and authentic to real world happenings in the war on drugs. It's not pretty but it's a damn interesting read.