Finding a well-written crime novel isn’t always easy, especially one that’s nuanced, exciting, and so realistic that they even make the criminals nervous. But that’s exactly what you’ll get with author Don Winslow, who’s been writing crime and mystery novels for the past 26 years. His latest book, The Force, is now on sale.
Don Winslow’s work is praised for its realism, diving deep into the heart of law enforcement, drug cartels, gang activity, and more. His writing is so realistic, in fact, that he’s even received death threats from criminals and organizations who see themselves in his pages. It’s a problem he discusses at length with Entertainment Weekly, who recently profiled the bestselling author. The article is an in-depth look at an author who has led many different lives (he was once a private investigator!) and who is clearly an expert in what he does.
Speaking of which – The Force is about a brand new Don Winslow character, a cop named Denny Morrow. An NYPD detective, Denny leads a loyal crew in a special unit dedicated to eradicating drugs. But Denny has a secret and it’s one that could ruin everything he’s built for himself. Though he’s put hundreds of criminals behind bars, he’s not exactly clean either, and his bad decisions are finally catching up with him. Blurbed by Stephen King as, “The Godfather, only with cops,” The Force is a story about how our choices define us. It’s also a story about the drug world in NYC, and the civilians, the criminals, and the law enforcement who call it home. Told with an exacting attention to detail and intriguing characters, this is one novel that you won’t want to miss.
If you’re new to Don Winslow and his writing, then we’re here to break it down for you. From drug wars to epic rivalries, here are three of his very best novels:
The Cartel (Knopf, June 23, 2015)
Arguably Winslow’s most popular book, The Cartel is a searing look at life inside the Mexican drug cartels. See the drug wars from all angles – cops both good and dirty, kingpins and feds, journalists and ordinary citizens who are just trying to get by. The story follows former Federal agent Art Keller who’s living in a monastery after losing everything to his ongoing feud with drug kingpin Adán Barrera. But when Barrera escapes from prison, Keller is the only one with the information and skills to hunt him down. As the brutal drug wars escalate, the two men will do anything to stop each other. Their feud threatens to destroy everyone in their path, as Winslow paints a bloody narrative that’s impossible to put down. Informative and horrifying, this is crime writing at its best.
The Power of the Dog (Knopf, April 26, 2005)
Before The Cartel, there was The Power of the Dog, the prequel story of DEA agent Art Keller and his quest to take down the cartels. Mostly set 10 years earlier, it introduces us to Winslow’s iconic characters and shows the origins of the drug wars themselves. Covering almost three decades, the story examines Keller’s original run-in with the Barrera brothers, the drug relations between the US and Mexico, and the victims of it along the way. Told in multiple points of view, we also meet a young prostitute named Nora Hayden, as well as a mob hit man, Sean Callan, who’s grown weary of his role as a killer. This is another detailed, engrossing tale that sets up the world of the cartels and establishes Winslow as a powerhouse of the genre.
Savages (Simon & Schuster, July 13, 2010)
Made into a 2012 movie starring Blakey Lively and Benicio Del Toro, Savages is a tale about friendship, business – and the Mexican drug cartel, of course. Ben and his good friend Chon are running a successful marijuana business in Southern California, with Ben overseeing the growing and Chon handling any outside threats. But when the Mexican Baja Cartel decides that they want a part of the action, the two friends are faced with the kind of threat they might not be able to handle. When they refuse to play ball, their mutual girlfriend and muse, Ophelia, is kidnapped. In order to get her back, the two small time drug dealers propose a deal that may have dire consequences for everyone involved.
Main image: Michael Lionstar/A.A. Knopf