BCNegra Festival: Don Winslow, the king of criminal black narco-literature, wins the Carvalho award | Culture

Don Winslow, in 2015 in Madrid.
Don Winslow, in 2015 in Madrid.Samuel Sanchez

Don Winslow has a special connection with Barcelona: in addition to being a regular visitor, since 2010, he has pointed out the city’s port as one of the great gateways to Europe for drug trafficking from Mexico. He did it in one of his best novels, The cartel. The ties of what may be today the great name of the black criminal narco-literature with the Catalan capital are now tightening a little more after the City Council has awarded him the XVII Pepe Carvalho Prize, which he will receive on February 10, within the framework of the BCNegra festival.

“He has forged a monumental work to portray the world to us, whether it be displaying sagas that span generations, often hard to read, essential, or with singular works that emanate from reality to become a relentless literary punch”, states the jury record . And this is so in part thanks to the complex and rich biography of Winslow himself (New York, 1953), who among his many lives has been a safari guide and, “incidentally” is always quick to say, a private detective.

In any case, his work is supported by meticulous research work, such as the one he developed to develop the novel that led him to be recognized internationally, The power of the dog, “A narco-mex version of The Godfather”, As it has come to be defined. They were six years of documentation as savage as the facts that are described on the effects of the fight against drugs in the 3,000 kilometers of border between Mexico and the US “My country fights in Mexico with the idea of ​​Vietnam,” he criticized slipstream of that work that led him to meet with various cartel bosses and even receive the threat of a local boss.

With a direct style and a high narrative rhythm, Winslow’s great weapon continues to be “his ability to transform research and information in matters of creation, to present in fiction format (realistic fiction), crudely, directly, magisterially, some of the structural defects of Western societies ”, points out the jury of the Carvalho Prize, chaired by the writer Carlos Zanón, made up of fellow authors Núria Cadenes, Rosa Ribas, Daniel Vázquez Sallés and journalists Anna Abella and Sergio Vila-Sanjuán .

TV series and new book

Border (2019) complete, together with The power of the dog (2005) and The cartel (2015, book of the year according to The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian), a trilogy about Mexican drug trafficking that shows Winslow’s best literary virtues: a harsh and violent reality, but without rejoicing in the blood and morbid, an also polyhedral portrait that equally compromises bankers, politicians, the arms industry and the police forces, often very affected by internal corruption and which gives voice to the police, the trafficker or the junkie. All three works, featuring Winslow’s admiration for Elmore Leonard’s dialogue and James Crumley’s craft, have been acquired by FX in a multi-million dollar deal to turn them into a television series.

Many of those literary signs of identity could be detected already in his award-winning debut, A breath of fresh air (1991, Maltese Falcon Prize), today’s first novel, a remarkable bibliography of almost twenty titles, stitched with recognitions (the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, the one of the critics of Los Angeles Times, the Raymond Chandler or, in Spain, the novel RBA, precisely with The cartel) and that promotionally cares with great care. Hence, last September he decided to suspend the departure of Burning city because he could not travel to promote it due to sanitary restrictions due to the pandemic.

The novel, which HarperCollins (a label that is recovering its work) will publish in Spain on April 18, has to start a new trilogy based on the figure of Danny Ryan, a longshoreman in Rhode Island who occasionally works for the Irish crime syndicate and who is involved in a war between rival factions of the mafia unleashed by a species of Helen of Troy. “Observing the characters of the classics I began to see their contemporary equivalents”, has advanced on this work. The mafia has its great storyteller and chronicler.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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