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SAVAGES by Don Winslow


by Don Winslow

Pub Date: July 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4391-8336-6
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Winslow (The Dawn Patrol, 2008, etc.) turns a drug war into staccato serio-comedy that restricts the police to supporting roles.

Ben and Chon are old buddies whose complementary styles—Ben is laid-back and mellow, Chon is a former SEAL with baditude—have made them successful partners in a Southern California drug operation. Studious Ben has developed a strain of Ultra White Widow that gets the most jaundiced users high off one toke; Chon provides security for the operation, its distributors and their baby-doll mascot Ophelia. One day, duly constituted representatives of the Baja Cartel, under the leadership of engineer Hernan Lauter’s iron-willed mother Elena, approach Ben and Chonny with an offer they can’t refuse: Sell their product to Baja at wholesale prices and turn their distribution list over to the cartel so that the gross profits from Ultra White Widow can be redirected south of the border. The lads, who’ve been looking to get out of the drug business anyway, politely decline, then rapidly change their tune when Miguel (“Lado”) Arroyo, Baja’s advance man for SoCal, has Ophelia kidnapped and threatens to execute her instead of merely holding her hostage for three years. Now Chon’s dander is up, and even Ben finds his gorge rising. Instead of accepting a demotion to Baja’s growers, they make a counteroffer—name your price for a buyout that would spring O immediately—and then have to figure out a way to come up with the $20 million Baja demands. Their happy inspiration is to liquidate all their assets and then steal the shortfall from their extortionists’ dealers and distributors. The result is a bloodbath presented in an inimitable combination of addled prose poetry and text messages (sample action prologue: “Now I’m one of them / He sights in again. / No time for / Lack of PTSD / He only hopes that / Gentle Ben / Increase-the-Peace Ben / is one of them, too, now.”).

Graphic proof, if you needed it, that “you can’t make peace with savages.”