After my earlier post about fiction that men want to read , I thought I’d illustrate the point with a review of The Cartel by Don Winslow. It is a sequel to The Power of the Dog and tells the story of the drug cartels in Mexico.
At the centre of the so called War on Drugs lies the battle between Art Keller, who is the good guy, an American with Mexican roots, pitted against Adan Barrera, El Patron, the leader of the most powerful cartel in Mexico. The violence is sickening and would not normally be my preferred choice , but the book is intensely moving and also informative. I had no idea how much control the cartels had over the Mexican economy and the depths of depravity into which they would sink to protect their business. These guys make the Italian Mafia look like pussy cats. During the recent US President election, Donald Trump promised to build a wall but after reading The Cartel, I can begin to understand why the idea had so much traction. I know this is a novel but Don Winslow writes with authority which makes you believe you are reading a true story. The level of detail used to describe the processes by which the cartel smuggle drugs into America and the attempts by the enforcement agencies to stop it happening are compulsive and I am sure accurate. The turf wars that occurred between the various cartels are absorbing because Winslow allows you into the minds of the perpetrators. If this novel was just a catalogue of violence you would become quickly bored but the characters of Keller and Barrera are well drawn. In many ways they are similar and we readers realise that the dividing line between good and evil is a thin one.
So here is a book which men like to read. It has got nothing to do with the violence. Books about serial killers in which women are killed in horrible circumstances are often written by women writers but would not be the preferred choice of most male readers. The reason why The Cartel works for me is because it informs me about something I knew nothing about and at the end of the story I am not left shortchanged because I correctly guessed who the murderer was.