Posts Tagged ‘torture’

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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Stephen King is having a really cool year. The second part of IT was in the theatres (it was bloody awesome … no pun intended … ok, maybe just a little). And the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep (which I reviewed several years ago … feel free to look it up), made it to the movies this month (about bloody time). Needless to say, I saw it and Rebecca Ferguson played a delightful Rose the Hat (gave me the hibby-jibbies). So when I heard that this book was on the horizon, I just couldn’t wait and it was spared very little resting time in the stacks at my branch. But enough with the blah-blah-blah, pleasantries and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the blasted review. Yeah?

Tim Jamieson has come to a sudden dead-end in his career, as cop in a Florida town, and has decided to settle for the “greener pastures” of (get this) New York City. An overbooked flight changes his mind and he ends up hitchhiking (with over two thousand dollars for giving up his seat on the plane) towards the North. He soon finds himself in a small, unknown town in the South Carolina. He settles and finds a job as a night knocker: basically a cop that patrols the town and knocks on the doors of businesses and certain individuals in order to make sure all is well. The pay sucks, it is simple and he is unarmed, but life in this town is just as simple and nice. Or so it seems … for the time being.

Luke Ellis is twelve-year old kid. He is your typical twelve year old with a few minor exceptions: he is quite the child prodigy and when he is in a certain mood eating utensils and other things tend to move around on their own. Yes, Luke is telekinetic. And then one night, Luke’s parents are murdered and Luke is kidnapped and brought to a strange place in Maine known as …. (wait for it) … The Institute. The institute is run by a psychotic, Nurse Ratched type named Mrs. Sigsby and is staffed by a bunch of motherless, ex-military types of varying specialties. On entrance to the Institute many of the kids are told a yarn about them serving their country and saving the world …. and then the brutality …er, testing begins. Despite these are pre-pubescent teens, failure to confirm is met with physical abuse and even a form of water torture that makes waterboarding feel like a quaint baptism. Wait, a minute … children being separated from families and treated badly? Sounds familiar. Maybe not, only from the strange and twisted mind of King. Aye, that’s it. Along the way Luke befriends Kalisha Benson (who sounds like the Afro-American girl in last season’s Stranger Things), Nick Wilholm (the rebel), Avery and George Iles. Sort of like a twisted verstion of the Breakfast Club, except that these kids never go home, detention seems permanent and Mr. Vernon does not give out 500 word essays to write when they act up … they either get pummeled or tortured. But all is not lost, since the kids have found a friend in the form of Maureen Alvorson (a woman that re-stocks the vending machine that offers cigarette-type looking candies and alcohol … yes, you read right, among other things). The bad news, in all this, is that the kids don’t know that mom and dad are dead. The really bad news is that Maureen has a sinister ulterior motive that is unknown to these desperately, trusting teens. The kids find out that the Institute is divided into two parts: The Front Half where the new “recruits” are initially deployed for the Guantanamo Experience and then … there is the Back Half where kids simply disappear and are never heard from … ever … and it also features are weird humming sound. When that weird humming sounds changes to a pitch somebody in the world dies … puppies (thankfully) are spared. Somewhere along the line, Luke finds out the fate of his parents despite the Institute’s attempt to isolate him from that information and decides to go Freddy Mercury … and break free. It is during his strange odyssey (which would explain the cover) from the Institute that he crosses paths with Tim Jamieson … and needless to say … the shit hits the fan. And this where I stop for I fear that I will be spilling some unnecessary beans. To say more would be a complete and utter tosser to spoil for everyone … so there.

It. Is. Premium. King. Grabbed from various goings-on in this messed up world King stitches together a frightening quilt of a tale (or is it?) that is bloody disturbing yet intensively-mesmerizing that’ll leave you clinging on to the edge of the covers, as you battle insignificant things like eating, sleeping and bodily functions … all the way the breathtaking conclusion. Though there aren’t any preternatural creatures lurking around, this just might be his most disturbing and frightening yet. Why? Just look around us. Need I say more. And some of us just might utter a silent prayer and hope that this stuff remains bound and condemned to the pages of fiction. Mr. King, you remain America’s scary yet delightful uncle. Jolly good show, my good man.

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