Savages by Don Winslow

The Power of the Dog is one of my favourite books, so I had high expectations for Savages. And I was not disappointed. It has the in your face, impassive narrative of gruesome violence and explicit sex in a pacey present-tense style that is the Winslow trademark. The story portrays two laid-back, but quite differently motivated characters, Ben and Chon, whose wealthy lifestyles as successful marijuana producers is threatened by an invading Baja cartel. Avoiding confrontation becomes impossible after their shared girlfriend “O” is kidnapped. Yet even with the predictable violence that follows, Winslow manages to achieve empathy for even the villain, the head of the Baja cartel, Elena, who it seems is forced to carry out her despicable acts by the position she’s been thrust into. Its short chapter lengths and quirky narrative keep the reader amused, in suspense and turning the page (or in my case clicking the forward button on the Kindle). The viewpoint characters are strong and have a wonderful depth.

The only problem I had was that I started reading the story on a flight to Sydney, and was sitting next to an old lady who expressed some fascination in the Kindle. I was a little shocked when I opened up the Kindle file to show her how a book appeared. Chapter 1 has only two words: “F… you.” The lady sort of smiled and went back to her magazine.

Sirocco: My Review on

DL Wilson is up there with DeMille and Daniel Silva in creating characters that are real, have weaknesses and personalities, and are not just two-dimensional heroes. In Sirocco we see a determined female terrorist planning to release a biological agent that will destroy the US, and a somewhat unlikely hero in Brett, an expert in biological agents whose brother has been found dead in a New York apartment, apparently from suicide.
The plot ducks and weaves, heaping mystery upon suspense, as Brett fights the bureaucracy and his own confused relationships while trying to perform an important role for the White House. Meantime, Sharifah, the terrorist, is having her own issues.

What I enjoyed most about this book is the humanity of the characters, and some of the twists that create a character-driven thriller that keeps the reader turning the page. Highly recommended.


The news agency Reuters has reported (6/10/11) that American citizens who are terrorists like Anwar al-Awlaki are being placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the President of its decisions.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is apparently “fuzzy” according to Reuters. Clearly, though, not warm and fuzzy.

Do other countries have such panels? One might be able to imagine Russia having something similar, with President/PM Vladimir Putin having a good old chuckle as he listens to the panel’s Top 40 hits of the week.

Does Australia have something similar? And who might be on any hit list that was approved by Prime Minister Gillard? Would Kevin 13 be asking that question himself right now?

Australians, having invented the “fair crack of the whip, mate”, would no doubt consider it appropriate to allow nominations to such a list. Because, let’s see, there are those awful landlords featured on A Current Affair recently, and there are the sleazebags who smuggle in the thousands of people invading Australia in little boats. And all Australians hate people who try to rig or cheat at sport, and of course, there are those un-Australian bakers who don’t know how to make a proper lamington. They really need to be done away with.

More pertinently, one should be asking who might be the members of the “judging panel” that decides on who to hit? Imagine, if in the US during George W Bush’s presidency the panel included Donald Rumsfeld? All those conspiracies about why it took until Barack Obama became President to get Osama Bin Laden would have even more of a run in the National Enquirer.

There are some obvious candidates for a “Hit Panel”. Kyle Sandilands would have to be front runner, and of course Graham Richardson would be in the Chair. With his super-sized knife, our Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan, would also be a natural. That would be one way he might keep the ATO off his back… permanently.

But seriously, there are clearly cultural relevancies that need to be considered here. Obviously, the Bulgarians would carry out the work using poisoned-tip umbrellas. The Japanese would apologise as they squashed people to death on the commuter trains. The French would strike their targets with a picket, and the Italians would love ’em to death at a PM’s Bunga Bunga party.

Regardless, I can see numerous novels about corruption of the process, when some innocent thriller writer gets targeted because he or she has invented a plot that is just too close to reality. Come to think of it, I saw a show on TV recently called At Home with Julia…