Mermelstein is the top government witness to defect from the Medellin cartel; here, his story is told smashingly by Moore (Compulsion, 1981; The French Connection, 1969, etc.) and Smitten, a Florida journalist. On Christmas Eve 1978, the Colombian drug folk were living it up at a Miami houseparty when hot-blooded drug kingpin Rafael Cardona Salazar, out of pique and blitzed on freebase, shot a college student in the face. Hustled out to a car by cohort Chino, Rafa told Chino to drive him to Max Mermelstein's house. Max--not in the drug trade but married to a Colombian--was brought out to drive. Suddenly Rafa again pulled out his gun and shot Chino five times in the head. Instantly, whether he liked it or not, Max was in the drug trade. And as Rafa told him, you only get out in a box or a cell: there is no resigning Much of Max's wife's family still lived in Medellin and would be killed to the last person--as would Max and his wife--unless Max became the American compadre for Pablo Escobar and the Ochoa brothers, who ruled the cartel. At that time the drug trade took in about $10 million a year. With Max's now-willing skills as mastermind of air and sea trafficking between Medellin and Miami, Escobar and the Ochoa brothers were multibillionaires within six years and running an industry rivaling General Motors. Mermelstein spells out in detail just how the trade worked its smuggling and how slow the DEA was in grasping the size of the Medellin operation. He draws some fabulously evil characters, including Griselda, the drug queen of Miami who delighted in killing 200 people, some personally. When the Feds Finally nailed Mermelstein, the Ochoa brothers failed to meet his bail of $2 million and instead put out a contract on him. Max faced a life sentence, chose to enter the Witness Protection Program, got off and now remains in hiding with his wife and children. Gripping as a gun barrel in your face.