The Wagon and Other Stories from the City (University of Chicago Press) may be the oddest (most odd?) book, by way of subject matter, I have come across in some undetermined time span. Its author, Maetin Preib, is a writer who is, additionally, a Chicago policeman. The wagon of the title refers to Preib’s first assignment as a cop: driving a “paddy” wagon around Chicago picking uo dead bodies and delivering them to the morgue.
Esteemed Chicago writer Stuart Dybek extols,
blockquote>From its aptly noirish title on, Martin Preib’s The Wagon has rightness of authenticity about it. From the perspective of a cop he fashions a compelling view of the Chicago Algren once called ‘the dark city.’ There’s a unique quality to his essays which manage to be broodingly meditative even as their narrative drive keeps you turning pages.
Jon Yardley offers this laudation”
Preib’s is a voice that has almost never been heard in American writing: not merely the voice of an ordinary policeman, which is rare enough, but the voice of someone whose working life has been spent in the service industry. . . . For [Preib], ‘there is a kind of faith that lingers in realism, a belief that knowing the city will lead somewhere beyond the city.’ He has justified and realized that faith in The Wagon, a quite remarkable book that is much larger than its slender dimensions.
Preib talks about the Wagon on Book TV.
>To Die in Mexico Dispatches from Inside the Drug War by Mexico based journalist John Gibler ((Mexico Unconquered Chronicles of Power and Revolt)both by City Lights) is a brave and disturbing book, which with startling (that is, if you are still capable of being startled) clarity accounts for the death, havoc,corruption and destruction that flows from the 4O year old failed War on Drugs in the crucible of Mexico’s northern borderlands. Its a shameful(if you are still capable of being shamed) history of American complicity in the rise of Mexican narco-trafficers, not to mention the American appetite for illegal (and legal) drugs that is a sufficient condition for this ongoing debacle.
Ben Ehrenreich asserts:
“If you want to cut through the lies, obfuscation and sheer lunacy that surrounds Mexico’s so-called drug war, read To Die in Mexico. John Gibler reports from Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, Culiacan–the bloodiest battlegrounds in a fever of violence that has left more than 38,000 dead. But he accepts none of the prevailing myths–that this is a war between rival criminal enterprises, or between a crusading government and assorted barbarous bad guys, that it is a war at all. An antidote to the sensationalism and mythologizing that dominate the discourse, To Die in Mexico is at once a gripping read and the smartest, sanest book yet written on the subject in English.
There are, of course, other books that look at this prolonged nightmare— Charles Bowden’s Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields(Scribner)is an outstanding survey. Here Bowden talks to the folks at Democracy Now about it.
Don Winslow who of late has produced a Trevanian novel and a sequel to Dawn Patrol wrote what I think is one of the great narco traffic thrillers
The Power of The Dog which mixes the DEA, the Catholic Church, the CIA, Columbian guerillas and naturally, the Mexican government, in the juicy narrative stew that is the unfortunate reality of the narcotics business. Too bad Oliver Stone (well, maybe not) is making Savages, Winslow’s taut drug trafficking novel into a movie—the Power of the Dog would be fabulous on screen—having the potential for an epic such as the Godfather.
T Jefferson Parker has set a his Charlie Hood series (Border Lords-Dutton) in the border war zone. And the middle section of Roberto Bolano’s 2666 (FSG) is devoted to a grisly inventory —some 200 plus pages —of the murdered women of Ciudad Juarez. I can’t believe I read it but that may say something about Bolano’s writing and the harrowing facts of Mexican life.