In this gritty, wide-angled, modern noir, sweeping changes in the Mexican drug trade in 1976 imperil the lives and fortunes of two small-scale marijuana growers and a pair of corrupt American border cops.
The unnamed narrator and his partner, both Vietnam veterans, have been making major spending money growing weed in Humboldt County in Northern California and selling it to a friendly connection in Mexico. And the border cops have been doing well taking money to let groups of desperate Mexicans walk into San Diego. But as Colombian drug lords move into the area with their cocaine, partnering with corrupt Mexican officials, the rules of the game are violently rewritten. Ultimately, both the narrator and the corrupt cops come up against Miguel Zamora, a self-proclaimed Mexican drug king who, fueled by coke, has become a brutal, sadistic monster who abuses his wife and thinks he can outsmart the Colombians and his Mexican partners. We've seen Zamora's kind of megalomania plenty of times before, but this book, set against the backdrop of the United States' intensifying war on drugs, overcomes clichés with its taut, powerfully controlled narrative. The first stand-alone novel by Birtcher, author of the Mike Travis series (Angels Fall, 2008, etc.), pulls no punches with its torture scenes and sudden deaths. The federales and banditos are equally fearsome.
Both a convincing period piece and a timely effort in addressing drug and immigration issues.