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Posts Tagged ‘netflix’

For some strange reason I am drawn to some of the dark aspects of this life in this world, both written and screened. If Netflix and my cable subscriber is reporting on my viewing habits, there is probably (at most) some interesting files sitting somewhere in some interesting buildings or (at least), some warnings issued to potential mates. So when someone donated the Don Winslow book to my branch, there was something that screamed “you’ve got to put this in the stacks … and you have to check it out”. It probably had to do with the fact there was a bulletproof vest featured on the cover with the word “Cartel” on it. Aye, I’m an easy sucker for a catchy visuals and titles. Well so much for the pleasantries and other such bollocks, so let’s get on with the bloody review. Yeah?
First off … Cartel is over 700 pages long. What, you ask, could they write about in 700-plus pages in a book simply entitled, The Cartel? Apparently, a lot, and there is nae a dull moment in none of those pages, and the best part is even when you finish the book you still feel that there should have been … MORE. Aye, it is that (terrifyingly) good.

Art Keller is a Vietnam veteran turned DEA agent and one of his biggest accomplishments is toppling the Sinaloan cartel, El Federacion, and capturing it top leader, Adan Barrera. Cartel finds Art residing in a Mexican monastery as its primary and premium beekeeper, producing good honey whilst enjoying a bit of solace away from the crazy world … though his Sig Sauer isn’t far from reach. Unknown to Keller, Adan has negotiated an extradition to a Mexican prison to serve the rest of his jail sentence. What the Americans don’t realize is that Adan’s extradition to a Mexican prison is about as harsh as me being transferred to a library branch … in Hawaii … with free housing … in a big mansion … for 5 to 10 years. From the scariest prison in Mexico, Adan lives it up with all the comforts of a premium five star resort as he runs his drug empire and is protected from his enemies from confines of his “jail” … as he plots the demise of Art Keller. Of course, When Art is informed of this change of events, more than vows are broken as Art willingly joins up for this narco-war. And so begins the rapid descent into the world of terrifying, viscous darkness and re-definitions of barbarism as an unorthodox game of cat and mouse is played. Though the Cartel is supposedly orbiting around Art and Adan, there are some interesting “scenic routes” in terms of characters that show up and add to this immense, yet terrifying and twisted mosaic: a group of reporters, foot soldiers, beauty pageant winners (yes, this is not an editing error). Compared to what is shown in the (sanitized) news, the fictional Cartel sheds some terrifying light on the real world of cartels. Where beauty pageants don’t offer scholarships to Ivy League colleges but are actually grooming grounds for wives and mistresses of narco-kingpins. Where cartels have better surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities that rival those of the CIA and FBI, and along with corrupt members of law enforcement can reach out and squash those that are deemed a “threat”. Where being a journalist means literally putting your life on the line to write and publish the truth. Where loyalty doesn’t always promise longevity and the possibility of being a convenient sacrificial lamb and the promise that your family will be well taken care off (as Joe Isuzu would say … sure !!!). Where rising up the ranks in the cartels means to engage in strange game of chess, where a pawn can suddenly become a king and vice versa; or you can be cannibalized (sometimes literally) by your own chess pieces (I’m guessing not much time to sleep is a staple of being in the higher rungs in this “business”… hmm … where do I sign up?). Where rising to the top as female makes you the scariest person in the room, since the narco-world is very misogynistic and takes a whole lot of machismo (and some extreme levels of depraved viciousness) to impress these chaps. At this point of time, it is needless to state that this is not going to have any fairytale endings and folks emerging out at the end are not quite unscathed, mentally or physically (or both).

Cartel though fictional is (sadly) not in the least, some exaggeration of what’s actually out there. And that, folks, is some scary shit to say. Several years ago I reviewed a book called Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano which is a NONFICTION documentation of the cocaine trade around the world, and it reads like Winslow’s Cartel … except that it is well … REAL. Cartel is one of the few fictional books that actually points an accusing finger at us with the question, “How much is your high, really worth?”. The answer, as both books would indicate, apparently a very high price and what some of us are paying for that indulgence, stateside, is the “discount” price. And though some of the viciousness that have been associated with cartel violence has been termed “barbaric” and “barbarians”, I’ve looked up several known historical barbarians and I hate to say it, but even those barbarians had a code that they lived by. What Winslow’s Cartel describes in many pages is something beyond barbarism.

One final note, it turns out that Winslow’s Cartel is actually a second book of The Power Of The Dog trilogy. Aye, I must admit that I have not read the first. The good news is that Cartel holds it own and is a dog’s bollocks standalone. All that is required is a good stomach. Happy readings, mates. And good show, Mr. Winslow.

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What can I say? Looking back at the list of books I’ve read during 2019, it is disturbing to note that I’ve been reading … nay… consuming a lot of horror novels. Dark, disturbing and sometimes, stomach churning horror novels. I don’t know what that says about me, though it might explain my (perpetual) single status. Whatever. Their loss. Ever since NOS4A2, I’ve been fascinated with Joe Hill’s writing, and though I’m not a big fan of anthologies (don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a good few) I like reading Mr. Hill’s offerings (remember Strange Weather, folks?). So when I saw Full Throttle staring at me from the “New Arrivals” shelf, I figured why not … it’s not like I’ve got a string of dates lined up and seemingly sane folks can’t live on binge-watching the telly (I think I’m sane). But enough with the bollocks and let’s get on with the blooming review (so you folks can get back to your holiday festivities such as sipping eggnog and cuddling up to a Love Actually on Blu –ray … what, only me on that one, I’ve detoured … and revealed much).

Now in the last few months, I’ve serenaded you with the dark and disturbing, lotion-in-the-basket, sort of horror. Full Throttle is a nice “break” away from such. And yes, I am being extremely generous in the use if the word “break”. Full Throttle is a delightful collection stories that are frightening but not always (except for a few) in the preternatural sense, ranging from cautionary to vengeful to hear-touchingly creepy to (yes) macabre.

    To avoid spoiling the stories for my fellow readers and coming off like a complete tosser, I’ll offer up a taste of what is in Throttle:

  • A bunch of bikers carrying a dark secret finds themselves unwitting victims of a mysterious truck driver.
  • Teens visit a seaside carnival and youthful bravado leads to an assault on an innocent carousel worker … and unleashing a terrifying and frightening secret that would change their lives.
  • A bookmobile driver finds that his mobile library serves an interesting set of patrons: the dearly departed (though I must say as a librarian, my work with the public has it limits).
  • A girl and her AI companion, in a futuristic world, puts human morality under a magnifying glass and a sad commentary is revealed.
  • A Twitter user visits a horror-themed circus and finds themselves in a terrifying world. Or is it just a publicity stunt?
  • A call for help in a tall, grassy area at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, lures unsuspecting Samaritans to a sinister setting. They’ve made the movie adaptation (In The Tall Grass) on Netflix. The book and the movie versions differ slightly and that’s all this bloke’s saying.
  • A patriot separatist plans an act of domestic terrorism (shocker), but his past misdeeds have plans for him and his associates.

Bloody hell, I said I’d give you sampling and just may have screened the entire blooming book for you. To quote the immortal Marlene Dietrich: “Can’t help it”. And yes, I just quoted Fraulein Dietrich.

Though Full Throttle won’t have you cowering under the sheets in bowel-pinching fear, the stories are riveting and delightful chiller-suspense, mixed bag. Especially on a cold Christmas night for those that don’t fancy watching the telly with any Christmas themed movies (particularly ones featuring Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson). And most of all, it’ll make you appreciate some of the good anthologies that are out there. And I am looking forward to the second season of NOS4A2. Good show, Mr. Hill. No really, it is a jolly good show.

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