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The Power of the Dog Paperback – May 9, 2006
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An explosive novel of the drug trade, The Power of the Dog, takes you deep inside a world riddled with corruption, betrayal, and bloody revenge.
Art Montana is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and uncorruptable Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hellâs kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hitman. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug FederaciÃ³n. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tiajuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like youâve never seen it.
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First we meet Callan, an outside Killer in the service of a major Mafia Family. He and his closer associates, O'Bop and Big Peaches and Little Peaches are convincingly drawn and they come and go throughout the story. Callan is tired of killing and would like to leave 'The Life' but his employers always have 'one more job' for him to do. His other associates are 'in the Life' forever, even while they are in a Federal Witness Protection Program.
Art Keller, an ex-soldier from the Operation Phoenix assassination program in Viet Nam, finds himself in Mexico, where he is tasked with infiltrating the Barrera Family drug business. They have started with Opium and are shifting into Cocaine distribution. Art knows the Padron, 'Tio' Barerra as a top police official. Tio has also put together a narcotics 'Federacion' of formerly competing Families and they have corrupted the government and even the society of the country. Art makes an 'impression' on them through his dogged determination in a sparring match with one of their up-and-coming boxers. Tio feeds him information that breaks up a lot of drug organizations. He develops a relationship with Adan Barrera, Adan's story of his climb up the Federacion ladder and inevitable fall makes him the third compelling character in the story. Meanwhile, Keller is rising through the DEA, driven at first by an implacable sense of Justice and then by an implacable need for avenging the torture and death of one of his agents.
The sexy call girl, Nora Hayden, is a fourth major character. Nora appears and reappears throughout the plot(s) in the novel. She is well-drawn as a character: she uses sex as a tool to get money but she also has a social conscience and a lot of grit. Her life changes more than once: always a call-girl or mistress, she is caught up in the Mexico City earthquake where she finds she needs to help others to endure misfortune. Adan Barrera meets her and is besotted by her whole package of looks, sexuality and practical business sense and that puts her at the center of the drug story.
Readers are not likely to 'feel good' about America as they follow the 'ends justify the means' policies put in place by far-right CIA and State Department officials. Running scared from a perceived 'Domino Effect' of South American governments falling to Castro-like Communism, the government makes all sorts of deals and partners in all sorts of human rights abuses 'for the greater good.' They undertake an operation code-named Cerebus to get arms, technical advice and training to authoritarian but anti-communist militias and juntas. Those actors use 'War On Drugs' resources to exterminate union leaders, left-ish intellectuals and even to sway elections, in a program called 'Red Mist.' We read about similar programs in our newspapers back in the day. This did happen.
So...thrills, dirty deals, some explicit sex and sexuality and history combine to make this a highly reviewed and often-reviewed Amazon offering.
This was my first Don Winslow book. Picked it up because THE CARTEL looked interesting to me, so I thought I would check this one out first. I'm a huge James Ellroy fan and Winslow's writing really reminded me a lot of what I love about Ellroy. Not derivative or aping Ellroy by an means, but if you like Ellroy's books I think you'll enjoy this one for sure.
I'm a little hesitant to actually recommend this book broadly to friends though. Its a very gritty, violent and disturbing novel. There's nothing gratuitous about it. Winslow writes about how the narcotraficantes behave, how they deal with people and take revenge upon people, and he doesn't pull any punches with any of it. So, fair warning to any prospective readers.
The characters in the book are just outstanding. Loved the well developed back stories with each of them. Winslow does such a good job introducing each of the main characters at their younger ages, its really awesome to follow them on their paths to see how they are affected by the events in the story.
I'm really looking forward to reading THE CARTEL now. If anybody would care to comment on my review, I would be very interested to know from other readers if any of Winslow's other books are as good as this one. Thanks in advance1