Novel based on El Chapo is a real rush

25 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Movie studio courts Leonardo DiCaprio for drug war epic ‘The Cartel’.

Talk about timing. Ridley Scott is to direct an adaptation of Don Winslow’s Mexican drug-war thiller The Cartel, after the rights to the novel were acquired by 20th Century Fox after a fierce bidding contest, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Don Winslow’s new novel, The Cartel (***1/2 out of four), which fictionally chronicles the past decade of Mexico’s brutal drug-lord wars, echoes the stunning, headline-grabbing jail break from a maximum-security prison by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the legendary, billionaire drug kingpin. The Cartel, which was published shortly before the infamous jailbreak of real-life cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, became the subject of considerable Hollywood interest after Guzmán’s escape made global news. The episode saw Guzman slip out of his cell through a 1.5-kilometre tunnel dug under his private shower in the Altiplano maximum-security prison, some 90 kilometres west of Mexico City.

Scott’s commitment to directing the film was apparently instrumental in securing the deal, in the face of rival bids from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company. Last week, Mexican prosecutors investigating the escape formally placed 22 prison officials in custody on Tuesday over suspicions that the infamous fugitive had inside help. Within the first 70 of its 600-plus vivid pages, Adán Barrera, the fascinating, suave, drug-cartel patrón — loosely based on El Chapo — escapes from his country’s most secure prison to rebuild his Sinaloan drug-trafficking empire. Overshadowing Keller and Barrera’s personal grudge, however, is a vast, powerful, dark-hearted, graphically violent, procedural tale of drug-traffic economics, shifting allegiances and betrayals, bribery and corruption, heartbreaking collateral damage, and an accelerating rampage of torture, killings and massacres that drive recklessly toward the novel’s final and unforgettable showdown.

The author of 17 novels, including The Cartel ‘s 2005 prequel, The Power of the Dog, Winslow is a true-crime writer skilled at creating deep and compelling characters, He populates the novel with so many memorable secondary personalities that, initially, they’re hard to track. Among them are Magda Beltrán, Barrera’s ultra-sensual and smart mistress (easy to track); Edward “Crazy Eddie” Ruiz, a former Texas high-school football star whose street deals pull him into cartel turf battles; Marisol Cisneros, a beautiful Mexican physician who loves Keller; and Pablo Mora, a Juárez journalist whose ethical dilemmas reporting Mexico’s mayhem becomes the conscience of the book. Filthy-rich drug lords, sociopathic narco-terrorist Zetas, corrupt Mexican politicians and law enforcement officials, even U.S. authorities who cross the line, fill out Winslow’s hyper-focused and intense narrative. But, occasionally, his storytelling gets pulpy, like when he describes Keller as “…a Tom Waits loser, a Kerouac saint, a Springsteen hero.” Or, when in the novel’s first half, he distractingly shifts points of view within paragraphs, mixing trusted first-person narrative with unreliable third-person voices. In fact, having seen up-close the destruction of the drug trade, Winslow has become an outspoken critic of America’s War on Drugs, now in its 44th year.

Reality is his publicity stunt. “A half-century of failed policy, one trillion dollars and 45 million arrests has not reduced daily drug use — at all,” he wrote, echoing arguments made by his novel. “Every dollar we spend on drugs and every dollar we spend trying to interdict them raises the profits of the Mexican cartels and makes them more powerful…”

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