Today I thought I would share with you guys some of the sources I used when researching the background data I needed when writing Target Deck. I put a high premium on realism but since these are novels I’m writing what I often do is take elements that are very real and combine them in ways in which I can only speculate may be happening but could never prove. I’m also guilty of kicking everything up by several orders of magnitude, this is action-adventure we’re talking about here. However, for those interested in the real life issues that you might encounter in the novel and would like to get the real deal, I can recommend a few places to start looking.
Amexica by Ed Vulliamy and El Narco by Ioan Grillo were two books which I found very helpful when trying to penetrate the world of Mexican drug cartels and get some situational awareness not just of how the mechanics of the cartels function but the cultural overlay that exists south of the border around the drug plazas. Both of these books attempted to do what Roberto Saviano did with not just exposing but understanding the Italian mafia in his brilliant book Gomorrah. All three of these books include some great investigative journalism and hands on accounts of life inside organized crime.
Borderland Beat provided some great background by publishing fascinating information about the cartel wars that would have otherwise remained obscure if not completely unreported. For instance, I found some great tidbits about the Office of Bi-National Intelligence, an interview with perhaps my favorite military analyst, Robert Bunker, the cartel’s clandestine communications network, and information about US Special Operations planning to capture/kill a cartel boss.
Narco blog has some interesting information as well after filtering it though a language translator for us gringos.
Daniel Hopsicker is one bad ass mofo as far as I’m concerned. We need more hardcore journalists like him who are out there dropping some bombs on official collusion between drug cartels and “the authorities” on both sides of the border. His blog, Madcowprod was invaluable to me as I tried to understand how the criminal underground works as a globalized system of drug smuggling and money laundering. Click your heels three times and repeat after me, “there are no American drug lords.”
Old school investigative journalist Sy Hersh also came through and helped fit together some puzzle pieces. His article, “Our Men in Iran” is a must read. Did you know that the US government has been training an Iranian terrorist group on US soil as a Nevada Department of Energy facility? When people ask me which parts of my books are fact and which parts are fiction, I simply remind them that the creepy parts are the most realistic.
While writing Target Deck I also cultivated a number of my own sources of information regarding what is going on down in Mexico. This proved to be invaluable and helped steer me in the right direction. For instance, I found out that the so-called Fast and Furious scandal is really just a drop in the bucket. The weapons that ATF allowed to “walk” across the border is nothing compared to the military hardware that the cartels are hijacking in transit as the US government ships them to Mexico under the Merida Initiative. It’s some heavy shit getting stolen too, AT4 anti-tank rockets, M203 grenade launchers, ect… We’ve heard nothing about this on the news thus far.
For those looking for a one stop shop and get the inside line on the cartels, I can’t recommend this article from Small Wars Journal enough. It sums up much of the above information.