The novel is epic in scope, covering the s0-called ‘war on drugs’ and specifically the three decades from the mid-seventies. An epic novel sometimes means an epic number of pages and in this case we have almost 600 of them. The novel is nicely carved up, so while you know you’re reading a long book, you don’t mind being taken along for the ride. The novel follows the paths of several characters including our main protagonist, Art Keller, a DEA agent. Drug barons, mobsters, a priest, and prostitute make up the other protagonists. As is the case in a number of books I happen to read, the characters have some relationship with one another, either directly or indirectly, which brings cohesion to the book.
The book reminded me of James Ellroy’s American Tabloid, which I reviewed in October of last year. Like American Tabloid, POTG feels like you’ve got a front row ticket to real events. I don’t know how close POTG is to real events. However, a backdrop to the plot is the Cold War and more specifically the Iran-Contra affair, which allegedly saw CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The plot isn’t as complex as Ellroy’s and I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been. However, that shouldn’t take anything away from the book. It’s a very good read, with good (not great) characters; and a compelling, visceral and twisting plot. As you might expect with a cast list including drug barons and mobsters, the book contains its fair share of violence, including torture. However, such moments are always exercised judiciously and always for the benefit of the book.
A good test of a book is whether you’d read the sequel, if of course there is one. In this case we have The Cartel (2015), which I definitely plan on reading. If all of this sounds good to you then I’d recommend you get reading straight away. 20th Century Fox have paid for the film rights to both books and Ridley Scott is apparently involved in a film adaptation of The Cartel.
If, like me, you enjoy a good spy novel, my next book review will cover three of them. So watch this space!