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Author Don Winslow takes damning look at border drug trade

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Don Winslow’s new book, “The Border,” an uncanny look at the drug trade, debuted at number three on The New York Times Best Sellers List Sunday. Winslow, author of the acclaimed “Cartel Trilogy” (“Border,” “The Cartel” and “Power of the Dog”) knows that the Mexican drug trade can’t be curtailed by President Trump’s border wall.

In fact, in recent years, Winslow has used his own money to take full-page ads out in The New York Times and The Washington Post to tell the president and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions his objections to the billion-dollar project.

In one ad, he proclaimed, “The only way to win the war on drugs is to stop fighting.”

“Border,” which concludes the “Cartel Trilogy,” started gaining attention prior to the release when Winslow tweeted his desire to debate Donald Trump on the efficacy of a border wall. Stephen King commented, “I’d pay $10,000 to see that.”

Winslow said his political activism is the direct result of his writing success.

“Every one to two years there’s a brief window when people pay attention to what I have to say. I owe something to the addicts and the victims I write about. I felt like I should speak out; otherwise, I’m just a voyeur,” he said.

As you might expect, Winslow’s books are brutally violent. The cartels use unimaginable atrocities to cement their power and expand their base.

Writing about the violence started to take such a toll that he swore to his wife he would never write another book about drugs: a promise he just couldn’t keep.

“The subject matter got so much more difficult,” he said, adding that the cartel’s "level of sadism is your worst nightmare.”

He also said he is careful not to “sensationalize the pornography of violence” by sticking to the narrative.

One thing he didn’t leave out of “Border” is the politics. I’m sure he was smiling when he gave the fictional president the name “John Dennison,” one of Trump’s aliases.

The plot also revolves around a money-laundering scheme involving the president’s son-in-law, who needs an infusion of cash to keep his construction business running. The cartel is right there to lend him the money.

Winslow’s new book continues to look at the stormy career of DEA agent Art Keller, who in his 45th year fighting the war on drugs rises to the director of the agency. The author also weaves together dramatic subplots featuring: an addict, an undercover cop, a professional assassin, a Guatemalan boy seeking asylum and of a variety of cartel leaders who are quick to eliminate the competition.

The author said he began writing about the drug trade in his 1996 book “The Life and Times of Bobby Z.”

At the time, his job as a private investigator required him to travel by train between home and work.

“I decided I’d write a book on the train rather than read a book on the train. I’d write a chapter up and a chapter on the way back down,” he said.

One piece of advice he’d give Trump is to “forget the wall.” However, Winslow, who lives near the San Diego port of entry, said that if Trump wants a wall, he should ask the cartel to build it.

“Cartels would gladly pay for the wall if it meant cutting out the smalltime freelancers. It would be a boon to them,” Winslow said.

Between stops on a nationwide book tour, Winslow also gave his opinion on the positive and negative impact of legalizing recreational marijuana in the United States.

“The cartels almost stopped growing it. They couldn’t compete,” he said. “In response, the cartels got back into heroin.”

Winslow said he has seen the drug trade and cartels change dramatically since he first started writing. Winslow relies on intensive research and to the large number of insiders he has cultivated on both sides of the drug trade.

“It used to be that cartels would disguise their atrocities. Then they began posting them on the Internet, even before ISIS did it,” Winslow said.

He recently wrote an article on the El Chapo trial for “Vanity Fair” and his cartel trilogy has been picked up by FX for television.

As for the future, Winslow’s says that “Border” is the last in his drug war books.

“I need to move on stylistically,” he said.

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