A few years back I came across a novel, Don Winslow‘s’ The Power of the Dog , that as I reread it over the past weekend, retained the same power to engage and excite as I felt on my initial take. And back then I so enjoyed Winslow’s Drug War magnum opus that I have since read most of his oeuvre. All were competently written but falling short of the potency of The Power of the Dog. I suspect that Winslow has exponentially enlarged his audience by two film adaptations— one of them, of his 2010 novel Savages directed by Oliver Stone:
and the other for an earlier (1997)novel The Death and Life of Bobby Z.
My first reading of Winslow’s Drug War saga in 2005 reminded me of the revelations about drugs for guns shenanigans by the CIA reported by Gary Webb (portrayed by the film Kill The Messenger). It had all the plausibility and verisimilitude of John LeCarre’s depictions of security agency corruption, rogue agents and free lancing spooks, incompetence and inter-agency squabbling as well as the complicity of major institutions such as the Church,left wing guerillas,foreign governments and of course the Mob. It is a rich array of criminal activity that skillfully blurred the lines of an already soft boundary between what is right and what is legal — a dichotomy that seems only considered in the breech.
As a first rate crime story, The Power of the Dog is peopled with complicated protagonists, seriously committed to their agendas and well represented by dialogue and conversational riffs as captivating as you might find in a George Higgins or Elmore Leonard yarn. All of which make for a propulsive narrative arc that travels smoothly from the first page to the 500th.
The good news is that Winslow has written a sequel(The Cartel)that follows the drug war up to the present — which if it follows in the first installment’s path will be a fictional true account of objective realities (in the same way that Lincoln and other novels in Gore Vidal’s Empire Series were. Additionally, Shane Salerno is writing a script with Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg (all of whom who worked with Winslow and Stone on the Savages script). Arcel is directing. Salerno is producing and and the film may be out by year’s end.