Winslow's depth of research and unflagging attention to detail give the story both heft and immediacy, and his staccato, present-tense prose shifts easily among wildly disparate settings and multiple points of view. A complex plot, well-drawn characters and plenty of double-crossing make this a thinking person's narco-thriller. Agent, Jimmy Vines. Author tour. View Full Version of PW. More By and About This Author. Buy this book. Zeebra Books. Show other formats.
I cannot forget an image I once saw posted by the New York Times , of two consular workers murdered in their car in Ciudad Juarez. The picture showed the front of the car, the windshield dappled with gunshot holes. There is a man and woman inside - a husband and wife - both leaning towards the passenger side door, still buckled into their seats. Both are covered in blood. The woman was pregnant. Their daughter in the backseat was unhurt.
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Fiction cannot devise horror to surpass the realities of this sad world. At other times, when Keller gets on his high-horse, it can be like a screed. Every victory over a supplier simply ups the price, making the risk of drug-running even more attractive. The focus has to be on the demand side of the equation.
The Power of the Dog
It means focusing on drug treatment and addiction north of the Rio Grande. The actual end-result of drug smuggling — the experience of the user — is never mentioned in The Power of the Dog. This is rather glaring in a novel that encompasses just about everything else. I work with drug users.
There might not be anything on earth quite as frustrating. Getting people clean is a long, expensive, intensive, expensive, difficult, and expensive process that embodies the notion of one step forward, two or three, or four steps back. Did I mention it is expensive? Likely, a massive demand-side resolution will never be implemented. This is a great work of fiction. Unfortunately, it derives from ugly truth. View 1 comment. Mar 18, brian rated it it was amazing.
View all 7 comments. Dec 20, Richard rated it it was amazing Shelves: crime-mystery-thriller , essential-crime , globe-trotting , favorites , author-don-winslow. I've owned this book for years but kept putting it off until now. I got about 50 pages in and knew that I should have gotten around to this earlier and was peeved at myself for wasting time this year on more disappointing reads.
This is the type of book that doesn't come around too often. A book that finds the perfect balance between it's attention to detail and research, it's sensitivity to character, and it's great structure, all wrapped up in passionate prose. Imagine a mix of Traffic, Sicari I've owned this book for years but kept putting it off until now. We witness the rise of both men within their respective ranks, and as the feud strengthens, they struggle to stay one step ahead of the other, dragging others into the trenches with them, into a war that neither side can truly win.
This was one of the longest books I read this year, but it felt like I sped through reading it. It was endlessly engaging and one of the most compulsively readable books for me this year. Every character was fascinating and I found myself rooting for all of them, especially Art Keller and his unwavering drive to bring down the Barreras, and Sean Callan, a young New Yorker whose fateful decision to protect his buddy leads him into a life of violence where he faces a constant struggle to keep his morals. And it's all very tragic, because all of this violence and death is part of a silly "War" on Drugs where the priorities and the objectives have been skewed big time, a war that should've ended a long time ago.
Well, here's one in book form. And guess what? There's a sequel. View all 16 comments. Jul 02, Kemper rated it really liked it Shelves: crime-mystery , spy-vs-spy , r , mexico , vast-conspiracy , historical-fiction. This is not my favorite Don Winslow novel. However, considering that Winslow has written over a dozen books and for my money is one of the best and most underrated guys working in crime fiction today, getting a bronze medal is pretty damn good. Art Keller is a former CIA agent who got disgusted with running assassination missions in Vietnam and jumped to the newly formed Drug Enforcement Agency where he thought he might be able to do some good.
Art gets assigned to Mexico where he meets the Barrera family who feeds him the intel to destroy most of the existing heroin trade and poppy fields. Art later learns that the Barreras used him to eliminate the competition and give them the opportunity to set up an organization that will get rich running cocaine from South America into the United States. Winslow also does a great job of using the story to create a broader theme about the ultimate futility and hypocrisy of the drug war. My only complaint is that the end of the book seems a bit less ambitious and kind of a let down compared to the build up.
The Cartel. The Border View all 19 comments. Apr 04, Matt rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. I have been to Mexico one time in my life. I spent most of the time sitting poolside, sipping on drinks with neon colors and umbrellas floating in the ice. I rode the choppy waves of the pacific ocean on a jet ski and an atv along the sandy beach while the sun was setting. I think about dancing in the streets during Carnival in Brazil and looking down on the rest of civilization at Machu Picch I have been to Mexico one time in my life.
I think about dancing in the streets during Carnival in Brazil and looking down on the rest of civilization at Machu Picchu in Peru. I was well aware of the drug problem in the United States. Don Winslow gave me a swift kick in the ass, woke me up from vacation, and pulled back the curtain on the dark and seedy side of Mexico and South America.
The main character is Art Keller. Art is an idealistic CIA agent that wants to get the bad taste out of his mouth from his part in the farce that was Vietnam. He wants to do something important for his country. So he trades in one acronym for another and joins the DEA. The foil to Keller is the Barerra family, who rise to the top in the race to cartel supremacy in Mexico. Some other characters that get involved are a high end call girl, a priest, an irish mobster, and the enemies made by the Barerra family.
The book is well researched and includes characters that were loosely based off of real life players in the war on drugs. He starts the book with the naive idealism that everyone who wants to change the world possesses. The drug trade as it is now, thrives because drugs are illegal. The only people that sell and distribute drugs are criminals.
This attracts the most violent and corrupt criminals in a race to the top of the cartel food chain. The people put in a position to try and stop these criminals have to deal with the reality of the situation. They have two options when faced with an ultimatum by cartels. They can chose to try and fight them and get tortured and murdered or get paid to keep their mouth shut and keep the peace. May 11, Lyn rated it really liked it. More than that, power as currency — it is a neutral element, existing as a tool to be used for various reasons and in multiple contexts.
There is the pre-human, foundational power of sinew, tooth and claw — the muscular, violent power of strength and speed in martial contest seen in modern use as military might but existing in a microcosm on any playground, gym or bar. This is the power of one against another in its most animalistic form. But there is also the power of persuasion — of sex and courage. A beautiful woman has power, latent in her every move, glance and gesture. Likewise any observer of a bantam rooster — fowl or human — knows the power of confidence. In popular crime fiction, this is frequently demonstrated by the tough Irish cop with whom no one will mess.
There is the power of God — manipulated and personified by the clergy, and by the belief and faith in observants. There is an old saying that religion has caused more wars than any other source.
The Power of the Dog (Power of the Dog #1) by Don Winslow
Whether as a motivator or as a pretext for land or other power exchange, theology can be a force that exerts its power over us in clear or metaphysical ways. The author fills his decades in scope narrative with a heady mix of tasty characters to get to know. From the possessed by ideal agent, to the family Mexican drug dealers, to the New York hired hitmen and Mafiosos, to the government black operators who are just gangsters at a different level. Two characters who stand out are Sean Callan and Sal Scachi. We follow his wet career of assassinations and violence throughout the book.
Brutal, authoritative, and compelling, this is also clearly a very well researched work as Winslow outlines the socio-economic effect of the drug trade and the parallel war on drugs on our global culture. View all 8 comments. In either case, it's a tragic, bloody farce. I read The Cartel first and this one second. Ass Backwards. But It didn't feel like I was reading it in reverse as much as just digging deeper.
Don Winslow's look at the Mexica "Deliver my soul from the sword; my love from the power of the dog. But the story actually has four or five primary narrative threads. These characters are all suffering from their own needs, their own stories they can't seem to escape, and their own cold pragmatism. These are characters that seem all able to survive through a pragmatic realism and a cold calculation that both allows for their survival but also contributes to the suffering around them Father Prada excluded.
It is a dizzying hole to look down when you start thinking of the evil that gets perpetrated in the name of Apple Pie and God. Obviously, this is fiction, especially the actual narratives around Art Keller, etc. But like the best of Historical Fiction, it is able to convey the temperature and altitude of the real world it is describing. Often good historical fiction provides an understanding that almost surpasses good history or biography in relaying the truth about certain situations.
Close your eyes after reading these novels and you almost can see how close to the truth these fictions can be. Classic historical fiction does this by fictionalizing the primary characters and activities, but keeping the setting and the scenes as close to reality as possible. View all 5 comments.
Mar 24, Adam rated it really liked it. Power of the Dog can sit next to other books that portray the American Dream as dark bruise, such as Libra, American Tabloid, and Dog Soldiers, but it may feel uncomfortable as it lacks their power of prose, depth of character none of the characters are cartoons though , and stylistic heights: but it does have their ambition and authenticity in its vision of history as double-crosses, compromises, and bloody spectacle.
But this unfair as this is really a thriller at heart especially its finale Power of the Dog can sit next to other books that portray the American Dream as dark bruise, such as Libra, American Tabloid, and Dog Soldiers, but it may feel uncomfortable as it lacks their power of prose, depth of character none of the characters are cartoons though , and stylistic heights: but it does have their ambition and authenticity in its vision of history as double-crosses, compromises, and bloody spectacle. But this unfair as this is really a thriller at heart especially its finale more inspired by Coppola and Scorsese movies than any literary forebears.
This book is also a historical novel and almost everything in it is based on some historical fact. So you get to see the grotesque tapestry of the D. A dark novel by Californian Don Winslow about the never-ending "war on drugs" and the various efforts of the U. Well-researched but also extremely violent with repeated, cataclysmic collateral damage. However, t A dark novel by Californian Don Winslow about the never-ending "war on drugs" and the various efforts of the U.
However, the book wandered off point extensively in the first half, especially an unnecessary start with a scene from much later in the novel. The second half was better, but could have been better edited. View all 4 comments. Sep 18, Edward Lorn rated it it was amazing. Book had me like, Hands up, titties down, ass in the air!
View all 9 comments. Jun 24, Brandon rated it really liked it Recommended to Brandon by: Kemper. Shelves: fiction , All of these locations and events share various characters that weave in and out of conflicts like a high speed motorcycle chase through highway traffic.
Art Keller, while sharing the spotlight with many other characters, is the driving force behind the novel. Keller is basically Batman, driven by revenge and a sense of self-righteousness. Apr 30, Anthony Ryan rated it it was amazing. Over the span of two decades DEA agent Art Keller pursues an obsessive Ahab-like vendetta against Mexican cartel kingpin Adan Berrera, resulting in a grandly addictive tale full of violence, betrayal and moral ambiguity.
The supposed good guys do terrible things in the name of justice and the bad guys are both vile and disturbingly human. View 2 comments. And it came out in — why haven't I heard about it until now? Obviously, my fault — I blame the usual culprits of isolation and ignorance. I mean I even read the blurb and didn't think much of the premise, but still decided to give it a go. I was dead wrong — the book rocked, I barely put it down. It's got everything an intense retelling of America's war on drugs needs. It aligns so many real and hypothesized events Damn, Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog is one hell of an ambitious novel.
It aligns so many real and hypothesized events in history, with Winslow's well crafted fictional characters — that in essence he's just giving us all a history lesson. But this isn't the history of boring school textbooks, it's the stuff of films and sadly, reality — shit that makes you interested and actually think. He's got an Ollie North stand in, and George Bush's indoctrinations of the Contra guns for dope scam. Go USA. It's brutal, it's bloody, it's fucking intense. It should've won the Nation Book Award — read it.
There isn't much I can add to the hundreds of reviews already written. I will be on to the second audiobook, The Cartel , after a short break.
The Power of the Dog
Jun 26, Bill rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction. I don't read much science fiction anymore. When it was great, it was all about man and the Big Idea, or First Contact. It was all about the discovery of revealing concepts and bizarre things. But after the 80s, Speculative Fiction, as 'they' preferred to call it, brought more of a social consciousness to the stories and explored political structures and how they affected whatever new world we were in.
It didn't take long for me to get sick of it and abandon the genre. What the? Did Bill get his I don't read much science fiction anymore. Did Bill get his reviews mixed up? No, stay with me. I know what I'm doing. The Power of the Dog has nothing to do with science fiction. This is an incredibly well researched story about Mexican drug cartels. It is fictionalized, but several reviews that I've seen from news sources have said that this book was so well researched that it could very well be non-fiction, with key names changed.
It is absolutely stunning to get a grasp on what the drug trade in Mexico is all about. There are bad guys everywhere, and a LOT of money changing hands, making good guys bad guys. So strangely enough, I was thinking about the speculative fiction I had read in the past, and the clever little political worlds that these authors had thought up. And I was thinking, sci-fi, you ain't got nothing on this. With the clusterfuck that is the War on Drugs, you simply cannot make this shit up. The Power of the Dog takes this incredible stage and follows an obsessed DEA agent who is trying to clean up the Mexican drug cartels.
This is a violent book. Some very nasty things happen to good and bad people. It was an excellent read and expose on what is going on down there. Having said that, I must also say that this is also a very long read and I was tiring of it with pages to go. Shootout after shootout, and I just needed an ending. For this, I dock a full star. It's a solid read nonetheless and recommended as a both as a crime thriller and eye opener. Oct 11, Ryan rated it it was ok. I'm torn on this one because on the one hand, the story is pretty solid.
Winslow really unpacks the bureaucracy that makes the war on drugs so snarly. By the time he's through, it's pretty clear which agencies are involved and why and how they're all connected. Unfortunately, he also writes lines like: "Then the elevator doors slide open and water pours out, like a scene from a bad, grotesque horror film. Winslow's good at distilling information, even generating a pretty swe I'm torn on this one because on the one hand, the story is pretty solid. Winslow's good at distilling information, even generating a pretty sweet narrative out of it, but when it comes to actually giving us a human context, he coughs up these creaky-ass images or some dreck like "She was horrified.
How the hell does anyone make a sound like dddddddddd? View all 22 comments. Jan 08, RJ rated it it was amazing. If Winslow has a magnum opus, this is certainly it. A historical novel of the history of the Mexican drug cartels, with a stupefyingly-epic scope that reaches all the way back to the Vietnam War and continues through the late s, encompassing real life political events such as the Phoenix Program and Operation Condor, all twisted together with the barely fictional characters until you won't be able to tell what's real and what isn't.
Squeamish readers take note: there are massive amounts of p If Winslow has a magnum opus, this is certainly it. Squeamish readers take note: there are massive amounts of potentially objectionable material including sex, violence, profanity, drugs, and the Catholic Church. Shelves: reviewed , fiction-crime. Like the Cold War was for spy novelists, the "War on Drugs" has been the gift that keeps on giving for crime writers the world over. It's impossible to dream up fiction more extreme than the drug-related violence, corruption, cynicism, and hypocrisy that real life keeps throwing on newsprint and TV on a regular basis.
There are no heroes or villains; everybody's some amount of dirty. Want to write noir? Here's your morally-bankrupt milieu, right here. Don Winslow's made a good living being the go Like the Cold War was for spy novelists, the "War on Drugs" has been the gift that keeps on giving for crime writers the world over. Don Winslow's made a good living being the gonzo John le Carre of cartel noir , and this book is where he started. Beginning in , Winslow leads us through thirty years of the ups and mostly downs of America's dirty war against Mexican drug cartels. It follows cops on both sides of the border some clean, most on the arm with one shadowy group or another , kingpins, CIA hit squads, assassins official and unofficial, hookers of varying levels of proficiency, military figures in and out of uniform, and the sad sacks who get in their way and suffer grievously for their mistake.
Along the way, we get a subterranean history of American meddling in Latin America and the parallel capture of the area's governments by the tsunami of drug money that engulfed everyone on all sides. If you were alive during the '70s and '80s, you'll recognize the slightly fictionalized versions of those times' headline events. The author tells this story using the voices of a passel of well-placed characters: Art Keller, a semi-bent DEA agent; Angel, Adan and Raul Barrera, who build, lose, and rebuild a drug-trafficking empire in Sinaloa and Baja; Nora Hayden, a high-priced call girl; Juan Parada, a crusading priest; Callan, a New York Irish hit man; and some bit players who for a few pages tell the story until usually their own stories are cut short.
The main characters are invested with a level of humanity unusual for this kind of book, but normal for the author's works after The Life and Death of Bobby Z. Adan Barrera is perhaps the most sympathetic cartel boss you'll ever meet, while Keller is a most principled cop you'll watch trading away all his principles, one by one, to achieve revenge for the wrongly killed. Even Nora, who verges on the cool-blonde-beach-goddess fantasy that shows up in several of Winslow's books, gets to be a relatively real person who actually does something other than decorate the set.
Continuing a path he started in Bobby Z , the voice Winslow uses is brash, slangy, attitudinal and profane; not quite yet the up-yours tour de force of Savages , but you can see it from here. His dialog -- always his strongest suit -- can be a kind of tough-guy poetry at its best, while his narrative often sounds like interior dialog rather than an author's voice.
Don't look for extensive scene-setting here -- Winslow's always been less interested in the places he takes us than he is in the people who pass through them, so a line or two may be all you get to set the stage. With all this relative goodness, where'd the fifth star go? Actually, it's a half-star, but once again fractional stars aren't at our fingertips. For one thing, this is a loooong book pages. After enough nasty murders or convoluted betrayals, you go numb.
Some of the characters get a few too many convenient escapes from impossible situations. Nora's the only significant female character, with the rest of the women confined to the kitchen or bedroom or being crosses the male characters have to bear. You'd better have a well-developed taste for cynicism and dark conspiracy, too, because the author throws in every misdeed any side has ever been accused of.
Fans of the CIA, for instance, will find plenty to hate about this book. The Power of the Dog is like the Mario Puzo version of Traffic : a generation-long crime opera that encompasses the ruination of individuals and nations alike. When it's good, it's very, very good, but it doesn't always control its own worst instincts. If this sounds like your brand of nose candy, there's a sequel of sorts The Cartel written ten years later, and it's easy to see how the author's six years of research led to his Drugs-in-Laguna cycle.
If you liked Dawn Patrol or Savages , you might want to circle around to Dog to get the backstory. Be warned, though: this isn't those books. Nobody's charming, and nothing is cool. This is dirt, not gloss, and blood, not sunscreen. Dec 22, Tom Mathews rated it it was amazing Shelves: mystery-crime-thriller , group-reads , read-in As much a textbook on the political and economics of the war on drugs as it is a thriller, Winslow's book is as entertaining as it is disturbing.
Sadly, there is far too much nonfiction in the pages, nonfiction that shed a glowing light on American foreign policy. My thanks to the folks at the The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss this and many other fine books. It is a mean, dirty story where it is not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. This is not a mere cop and crime story. Winslow goes much deeper than that. While not strictly historical fiction, because Winslow tends to change the names to protect the guilty, and omit the names to blur which Presidential Administration particular acts may be attributed to, consider this a sweeping look at "The War on Drugs" from the founding days of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the mids to the end of the Nineties.
Winslow's protagonist is Art Keller, a Vietnam Veteran. More fitting for having been an intel operative in the Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War, the program for the assassination of suspected Viet Cong leaders. Keller is not regular army. He is CIA. They found themselves on the outside, at odds with other law enforcement who had not been recruited from the Vietnam experience. Known as "Cowboys," they were spurned by their civilian counterparts and locked out of intel and operations when possible.
Art Keller finds himself "Locked out" by his supervisor Tim Taylor who has stationed him in Mexico to shut down the heroin trade. But Keller has something going for him Taylor hasn't counted on. Keller's mother was a Latina. Essentially abandoned by his gringo father as he grew up in the barrio, Keller understands what it means to be Mexican. By apparent luck he finds himself in the boxing ring as the sparring partner of Cesar Barrerra, managed by brothers Raul and Adan. Keller is accepted. And wouldn't you know it, Tio, Uncle, Miguel Angel Barrerra, is a ranking Mexican police official who leads Keller to credit in shutting down the heroin traffic in Mexico and killing the heroin kingpin.
Here's the complication. Tio has a motive. Keller was actually a tool. Tio Barrerra establishes a Federacion to distribute cocaine the up and coming drug to the streets of the United States. Enter the Columbian Drug Cartels. Enter the Mafia Connection. Enter the Contra Connection. However the Barrerras are always just one step ahead of him. The key to any good narcotics investigation is the development of intel. Best source? However, now one tips on the Barrerras. It will get you killed.
Keller gets antsy and practical. Following Tio Barrerra, he discovers Tio has taken a young lover and an apartment as a secret love nest. In a "Say it ain't so Keller" moment, Art plants an illegal bug.