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Review: Silver Bullets – by Élmer Mendoza

silver bullets

This Mexican author, Elmer Mendoza, is about as vibrant a writer of fiction that I have encountered since Hemingway. A truly unique flowing style that is amazing to digest. The hero of the book is policeman Edgar ‘Lefty’ Mendieta. He is a drunken womaniser and the tale weaves in his affairs with the grisly murder-suicide of a lawyer. Sinaloan drug lords and their families are hunting down Lefty as they do not like his intrusion into their lives as he tries to solve the crime that was of course committed with Silver Bullets. The murder leads to further deaths: a suicide, another assassination. Mendieta eats well in restaurants mainly and has a penchant for Rock and Roll and Western music. The prose is in a verbal style of continuous sentences. The mood is captured brilliantly by the author and he paints a rich tapestry of the dark life of crime in this Sinaloa area of Mexico with all the gangster-wraps (drug hits) appearing daily. Crime, politics, love and betrayal, this novel has all the elements of a modern day classic and I look forward to reading future volumes of this Mendoza series.

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The Invisible Line of Migration – A Conversation with Multi-Award Winning Photo-Journalist Danilo Balducci, Cardiff University 04.10.18

La Linea Invisibile is a discussion by guest speaker Danilo Balducci which brings together the Translation, Adaptation and Performance, Picturing Others, and Conflict, Development and Disaster research themes at the School of Modern Languages. This lecture was broken up into 3 separate video displays of Danilo’s work. The above video is available on youtube and is the first in the series of photo presentations that we watched. Most of it is in Lesbos although some of the migrants were in Calais. Danilo travelled with migrants from Rome to Germany, very often fleeing the police alongside them. He continued to work on the situation in Italy which was a dramatic situation. In 2015 and 2016 the Balkan route was picking up and he followed this. In Lesbos the numbers were immense with 1000s gathering there. By travelling with migrants Danilo produced photography that wasn’t sterile. He was pulling people out of the sea, crossing rivers and crossing mountains. He made connections with people that he still maintains. On occasion the camera had to stay put where Danilo made the decision not to take pictures. For example when a woman was giving birth on the shore, he felt that it was too intimate a moment. However, there were some controversial images that he felt he needed to take. The dead young girl which was just a string of 14 dead migrants found that day, illustrates how difficult the migration passage could be. The problem with these deaths was that they were selling fake life jackets. They were full of absorbent material and had no buoyancy. Those who had money could buy authentic, proper ones. These deaths were the result of human, criminal folly. With regard to photography, it’s not about technique but more about empathy. It’s the ability to connect with people and to have boundaries. If somebody says: “Please do not take a picture” you must respect that.In a camp of 12000 people there can be much crying and screaming in distress. This affects you and Danilo found that he required psychological treatment. He recorded the sounds of the camps on his phone – he even captured the shots – the rubber bullets that were fired. The bloody face in the photographs comes from the shootings. On one day alone, 160 tear gas canisters were fired. They were Soviet-era Russian canisters that were out of date. Danilo had no gas mask and…

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Review: The Cartel – The Inside Story of Britain’s Biggest Drugs Gang – by Graham Johnson

the cartel

When you see the title ‘The Cartel’ you might immediately imagine a book about Colombian or Mexican drug lords. Yet, this book covers a 30 year history of a homegrown cartel, based in Liverpool. Back in the 1970s a pioneering Fred the Rat grouped together his criminal comrades and they moved from bank robberies and burglaries into drug importation and reselling. At its height the Liverpool cartel was importing 60% of the UK’s narcotics. International expansion took cartel employees into Spain, Turkey, North Africa, The Netherlands and South America. Police were oblivious to much of what was going on and characters such as ‘The Analyst’ had their work cut out, only many years later getting serious results through the hard work of the MCU (Major Crime Unit). The story of notorious Scouse trafficker, Curtis Warren is a highlight of the book, most probably his ostentatiousness proving hiss downfall, after appearing in the Sunday Times Rich List, getting busted by Dutch police and serving a long prison sentence in Holland. The global matrix structure of the cartel meant it operated like a large multinational business. The book’s violence is astounding. From street gangs, doormen companies, professional hits, murders (including links to the Crimewatch presenter Jill Dando’s killing), internecine wars and revenge attacks plus the rip off and advantage-taking of gullible workers further down the chain of command, blood is almost always flowing. The murder of the Cream head doorman by a 20 strong gang in a pub with machetes and baseball bats was particularly gruesome. For me, the highlight of the well woven tale was the ongoing saga of the never caught division featuring Poncho, Kaiser, Scarface and Hector. Based mainly in Amsterdam, these renegades dealt directly with the Cali Cartel and were the first to import a metric ton of cocaine to the UK. I found the tandem ascent of the UK Rave scene and dance music culture to be particularly relevant. The author has done good research and knows how to captivate the reader’s attention. I shall certainly be checking out more of Graham Johnson’s books. This book is only short and is divided into 45 chapters of only a few pages long. Yet after each chapter it takes a polite pause of breath to work out what is going on and to let the information seep in. The tale is traumatic. Definitely a five star, truly entertaining and…

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