The Border

Don Winslow is the spawn of an unholy alliance between Mickey Spillane and Tom Clancy. He writes thrillers with the astonishing verisimilitude and obsession to detail of the latter, and the lean, macho, karate-chop style of the former.

I highly recommend it.

Winslow’s The Border is the final act in a three-part tragedy that began in 2005 with The Power of the Dog which was followed by The Cartel in 2015.

The subject of the novels is the Mexican drug trade. Or, more properly, the American response to the American drug problem. We import the goddamn stuff, it is entirely our fault that Mexican drug cartels exist, but we like to think it is Mexico’s problem. It is, sadly, Mexico’s problem. Their country is overrun by these ruthless fucking gangsters, but they are only rich and powerful because of America’s insatiable hunger for the drugs they export.

It is also true that the American powers-that-be are perfectly happy to let drugs into the country. Because the drugs make junkies and addicts and users and all of them can be rounded up and placed in some sort of detention. That industry employs thousands of deputies, policeman, border patrol officers, prison guards and whatnot. The pushers and dealers and mid-level brokers get collared as well and they fill our penitentiaries up and keep them in business.

Drugs are big business, and the business of America is business, right? We’ve spent one TRILLION dollars in the last fifty years in this country fighting the War on Drugs. It’s all a joke. It’s just a big make-work program for law enforcement. Drugs are not only cheaper and more available, they are also far more potent.

We’ve lost the war. The defeat is so resounding and complete that we pretend the War never happened. Assholes like Benito Mussolini (I cannot type the name of the current occupant of the White House so I use an historical parallel) continue to spew their Old Testament jive of “get tough and lock ’em up” which never worked, doesn’t work, and won’t work in the future.

Don Winslow is not for the faint of heart. The Border is a grim and savage tale. There’s a thin string of hope, of course, Winslow is too good of a story-teller to leave us defeated. And he raises too many good points about the War on Drugs to ignore. This continued folly—our misguided public policy on drugs—is the central message of the trilogy.

It’s also just damn good crime fiction that’s impossible to put down.

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