Thursday, September 10, 2009


Don Winslow's third book, after The Death & Life of Bobby Z and California Fire & Life, moves him resoundingly into the realm of writers like Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, George Pelecanos, writers who practice their craft within the strictures of a certain genre but who through their artistry soar above the genre.  Don't get me wrong--I'm no snob; I love genre fiction, go for weeks at a time reading it exclusively.  I revel in it, I appreciate it for what it is, and sometimes I mainline it, like a drug.  All of this makes me appreciate it even more when someone like Winslow takes it to the next level.

The Power of the Dog is a novel about the rise of the Mexican drug trade, from the seventies up to the present day.  It is as much driven by character as it is driven by action--but believe me, there's no shortage of action.  We watch as the American DEA in its early years unwittingly lays the groundwork for a thriving Mexican drug underworld.  Mexico is divided up into three main areas, each run by its own crime boss, all of whom are ruled by an American-style entrepreneur, schooled in the ways of American big business, running his crime world like a corporation.  It's a chilling world in which the logical conclusion of any given business or personal transaction is the one which yields the most money or power, even if that road runs red with the  blood of family and friends, as well as the blood of enemies.

The Power of the Dog is a book that will haunt you for days afterward, both by the power of the story told and the beauty of the words used to tell it.

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