Keller sees the child and the glint of the scope in the same moment.
So begins The Border (William Morrow), Rhode Island native Don Winslow’s long-awaited, brilliant and bracing concluding chapter to the trilogy that began twenty years ago with The Power of the Dog and continued much more recently with The Cartel. The great thing about that opening line is that it foreshadows Winslow’s wondrous motif of continually juxtaposing images, emotions, and actions. These brilliant contrasts define the essence of what for my money is the best book in the series, as well as an instant classic.
No fiction writer has ever owned a subject, a kind of first and final word, the way Winslow owns the war on drugs. And his world-weary hero Art Keller, who’s been fighting that war for twice as long as the series’ duration, is the DEA’s ubermensch, the man charged with leading an existential quest against those who put the value of human life at absolute zero.
In The Border his chief antagonist comes in the form once again of Adan Barrera an El Chapo-like cartel head for whom brutality is first nature, never mind second. Keller still bears the scars of their previous encounters that have cost him pretty much everything that’s dear to him, the one exception being winning the war others have deserted or never bothered to fight at all.
“The adrenaline from the gunfight that started before dawn has dropped, and now he feels the sun and the close heat of the rain forest. His legs ache, his eyes hurt, the stench of flame, smoke and death sticks in his nose. The smell of burning flesh never leaves you.”
That’s more or less typical of the hard-edged, first-person, present-tense prose that brands The Border as an exquisite exercise in post-modern noir. But Winslow’s superbly staccato style is matched every step of the way by enough substance for a trilogy all by itself.
Keller is head of the Drug Enforcement Administration now, a position from which you’d think he’d be able to vanquish the sinister Barrera once and for all. That is until a pair of smarmy, potentially White House bound opportunists work at every juncture to short circuit Keller’s efforts to win a war many clearly don’t want to be fought.
This obstacle sets Keller alone on his quest to save the kingdom by vanquishing the fire-breathing dragon with a gut full of gasoline at any and all costs. In this sense, he is the classic hero, as much Odysseus from The Iliad and The Odyssey or John McClane from “Die Hard,”a man whose mission is defined by its very hopelessness.
The Border checks all the boxes, including a villainous sidekick who could teach the likes of Anton Chigurh, from No Country for Old Men, something. There are femme fatales, weak-kneed foils, double-dealing cops, and victimized civilians—all populating a tapestry as rich and vibrant as it is sprawling. This is a modern masterpiece of rare depth and pathos, an epic destined to be the defining tome of an age that has given us the opioid crisis and a never-ending battle over a border wall. A thriller extraordinaire and also, quite likely, the best novel of 2019.
The Border is now available to purchase.
Want more BookTrib?Sign up NOW for news and giveaways!
ABOUT DON WINSLOW:
While bouncing back and forth between Asia, Africa, Europe and America, Winslow wrote his first novel, A Cool Breeze On The Underground, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. With a wife and young son, Winslow went back to investigative work, mostly in California, where he and his family lived in hotels for almost three years as he worked cases and became a trial consultant. A film and publishing deal for his novel The Death and Life of Bobby Z allowed Winslow to be full-time writer and settle in his beloved California, the setting for many of his books. Branching into television and film, Winslow, with his friend Shane Salerno, wrote a television series, UC/Undercover, and the two collaborated on the screenplay of his novel, Savages.
His novels have attracted the attention of filmmakers and actors such as Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Twentieth Century Fox has optioned his next novel about a NYPD cop as well as The Cartel and The Power of the Dog. Earlier books Savages and The Death and Life of Bobby Z were made into films, too.
In addition to his novels, Winslow has published numerous short stories in anthologies and magazines such as Esquire, the LA Times Magazine and Playboy. His columns have appeared in the Huffington Post, CNN Online, and other outlets.