DON WINSLOW: CITY ON FIRE, COUNTRY ON FIRE…Why is one of America’s best crime novelists turning to politics full-time?
The release tomorrow (26 April) of Don Winslow’s excellent new novel, City On Fire (by my count his 24th, including three published in Germany, but not in English) was upstaged by another announcement, that Winslow was retiring from writing. He intends to concentrate on making political videos, something he began doing to fight Donald Trump, and what he calls “Trumpism” which he described as a “cancer that had mestastized across the country”. You could almost feel his frustration: the Congressional investigation of the 6 January 2021 attempted coup appears to be spinning its wheels; after 15 months no Republican lawmakers have even been subpoenaed, and Donald Trump remains untouched. Winslow’s previous videos, some made with stars like Bruce Springsteen or Jeff Daniels, have had over 250 million views, which make him one of the most seen authors in the world. But they haven’t had the impact he wants them to have. So he intends to leave his writing behind, and concentrate on reaching a billion views with harder hitting, angrier statements. In his statement he said, “No more of this when they go low, we go high. When they go low, I’m already going to be there waiting.”
Anyone who knows Winslow’s work will appreciate the sacrifice he’s making, after his long climb to best-sellerdom. “I was an overnight success,” he says. “But it was a long arctic night.” But some of the same sense of reality which his books offer lies in his own background, including a stint as a private investigator in New York, but also in a series of other jobs and studies in Africa, Europe, and Asia, as well as the US. And ironically, it was his his trilogy about DEA agent Art Keller and the war on drugs and against the Mexican cartels, which led to his personal feud with Trump.
Because even as Trump used the Mexican border as the tinder with which to inflame his war on foreigners and immigrants, and called for a wall as a centerpiece of his campaign, Winslow, having done his research in both the US and Mexico, knew first hand how hollow and cynical an exercise Trump’s plan was, and he was quick to challenge it publicly. The second book of his drugs trilogy, The Cartel (2015) had been published just before the 2016 election campaign; it both picked up on the momentum of Power Of The Dog and the preceding decade of growing appreciation of Winslow, and benefited from the extra attention his criticisms…