This is Don Winslow’s best book.

Winslow is most famous for his drug cartel trilogy. You should check it out. “The Power of the Dog” is excellent, “The Cartel” is even better, however last year’s finale, “The Border,” is a disappointment.

You see Winslow has a couple of writing styles. One dense, another minimalist. To read something in the latter style, check out “Savages,” or “The Gentlemen’s Hour.” They’re easily read, and the former was made into a substandard Oliver Stone movie, but watcha gonna do.

And although I liked Winslow’s 2017 book, “The Force,” about New York City cops, in retrospect it was not completely satisfying, it was almost like an abstract expressionist novel, not everything was clear, not everything was comprehensible, and ultimately you got the final story, but I do not want to recommend it.

But, once again, I want to recommend the drug cartel series.

You see Winslow seems to know more about the dope scene than any other writer. Sure, there might be some people in the government, some students of the game who know more, but they don’t write, certainly not in a readable way. If you want to understand all about the Sinaloans, the distribution of heroin today, just read the trilogy.

Not that it’s didactic. There’s a story, involving people, it’s not dry, it’s not only facts and figures, like “Midnight in Chernobyl,” which I finished recently.

I needed more about Russia and the nuclear disaster. “Midnight in Chernobyl” has a five star rating on Amazon, it was one of the “New York Times” best books of the year, but it’s not as good as the HBO series, it’s dry, the people don’t come alive, it’s a tome, good luck getting through it. I did, as I’ve said previously, if I buy it I finish it. It’s less about getting my money’s worth, and more about completion. Because if I don’t complete this book, what else won’t I finish? It’s kinda like listening to playlists. You’re into it, and then then it flows into a track you’d rather not hear, but if you skip that one, you end up skipping a bunch thereafter, and your good mood is broken. So I try to endure what I’m not dying to hear, at least in my self-created playlists, as for those curated by others, all bets are off.

If you’re interested in getting a taste of Don Winslow’s drug knowledge, I point you to these two magazine articles. Even if you’re not going to read the trilogy, check these out, you’ll learn so much.

“El Chapo and the Secret History of the Heroin Crisis”

“The Dirty Little Secret of El Chapo’s Downfall”

So, Winslow’s new book, “Broken,” is comprised of short stories.

These books are almost always unsatisfying, you get into a story and then it ends, I was reluctant. But Steve Martin bought me a copy and I had to check it out.

I’m glad I did.

The first story was a bit dense and then…

I got hooked.

Yes, this is crime fiction. People get murdered. So, if you can’t handle that, maybe this book isn’t for you.

But Winslow has an amazing way of detailing characters, they come alive, you know them, especially if you live in Southern California, where most of these stories take place. We resonate when a writer lays down what we see, when they encapsulate and add to our vision, and Winslow has got a skill for this, raising him above too much two-dimensional crime fare.

And living in internet, celebrity culture, we lose track with daily life, ordinary people, who may not be broke, but may not be famous, who are just doing their job. Normally, these people are not three-dimensional in either the news or on television, but in writing…that’s where you can do it, which is one of the reasons the written word will never be supplanted by video.

And Winslow has incredible skill when it comes to love. That warm feeling you have that you wonder if someone else has. And how do you respond? Do you say something or not, do you double-down, do you ask for a date. Two people have feelings for each other, but that does not mean the other one knows, nor does it mean they’re going to end up together, nor does it mean they know how to follow those feelings into a sustained relationship.

And laws have consequences. Change ’em, and you might be out of business.

Enforce them and you might end up with a result you do not want.

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t really feel the sin of the incarceration of those illegally crossing the border until I read the final story in this collection. You’ve got a right wing Fox viewer, confronted with reality. And it’s not black and white, nothing ever is. And that’s why the story is so good.

And the silent suffering.

And the struggle of life. We think everybody is paid attention to, everybody’s got their place, but the truth is many fall through the cracks. You can be damn smart and end up nowhere. Is anybody looking out for you? Do you have the wherewithal to make good choices and stick with them?

This is not difficult reading. “Broken” is the kind of book you will enjoy even if you only crack one book a year. Not to say that it’s lowbrow, but that it nails the essence of life with a lot of plot, it makes you think and you reach a point where…

You cannot put it down.

Is this the number one diversion for Covid-19?

I’m not sure.

But it’s definitely one I recommend. It’ll make you think about more than what is in the news today without being a total fantasy. It’ll root you in life, making you feel like an outsider at the same time you feel connected.

That’s right. Few care about you. Maybe your family, maybe a couple of friends. The media doesn’t care. So how do you navigate life?

The characters in “Broken” are trying and not always succeeding. These are real people. You’ll dig this.

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