The Border: The final book in Don Winslow’s Cartel Trilogy

Don Winslow’s fast action paced books, written in a style he describes as “close third person,” are good reads on several levels, including the enjoyment of a well-researched thriller about Drug Enforcement Agency undercover operative Art Keller and his long struggle in a harrowing world amidst Mexican cartel power struggles, traffickers, drug mules, teenage hitmen, families seeking asylum to escape the drug wars, narcos, cops and political corruption on both sides of the border as well as attorneys and journalists.

          “I’ve long and often said that the ‘Mexican Drug Problem’ is really the American drug problem,” says Don Winslow who recently completed The Border, the third book in his Cartel Trilogy.

          While Winslow is writing fiction, his New York Times bestselling books are all too real.

          “We’re the consumers and the ones funding the cartels and fueling this violence because of our demand for drugs,” says Winslow. “And then we have the nerve to point to Mexico and talk about Mexico corruption. What about our corruption?  If there’s anyone who should be building a wall, it’s Mexico to protect themselves from our demand.”

          Winslow’s fast action paced books, written in a style he describes as “close third person,” are good reads on several levels, including the enjoyment of a well-researched thriller about Drug Enforcement Agency undercover operative Art Keller and his long struggle in a harrowing world amidst Mexican cartel power struggles, traffickers, drug mules, teenage hitmen, families seeking asylum to escape the drug wars, narcos, cops and political corruption on both sides of the border as well as attorneys and journalists.

          The other level is the indictment of what he views as a failed policy by the U.S. to stem the tide of drugs.

“We’ve had a War on Drugs for almost 50 years and last year more people died of drug overdoses than ever before,” says Winslow. “We’ve already had this lab experiment and it was called Prohibition. As long as you have people wanting drugs, you’ll have people selling drugs. The way to end the violence and crime that goes along with drug use is to legalize drugs and treat them as the social health problem they are.”

Whether you agree with Winslow, whose books have been acquired by FX Networks for television, his writing is compelling as he takes us into a world he has inhabited since his first book, The Power of the Dog, was published. He intended to end the series with The Cartel, his second book about Keller, which he sold to Fox for a seven-figure amount.

“I swore that was my last book—I was done,” he says. “But the difficulty was that the story wasn’t. The violence in Mexico is increasing, the heroin epidemic in the U.S. is killing more people and the immigration issue—there was more to discuss. Like in my first two books, I had more to say through the medium of crime fiction.”

Winslow says the escalating violence in Mexico is amazing. In 1998, the big news was the murder of 19 people in a Mexican village that was drug related.

“By the time I was working on The Cartel, that kind of incident wouldn’t even be in the papers, it’s such a low body count,” says Winslow, noting that the difficulties in writing his earlier books was finding people involved in the drug trade who were willing to talk. “By the time I got done writing The Cartel, people who had been hiding their crimes were celebrating them.”

But Winslow says he’s seeing a definite groundswell of change.

“Cities are doing some really interesting and forward thinking about it,” he says. “We have a 2.2 million prison population behind bars and 20% of that is drugs; we have 181,000 in Federal prison and around 90,000 of those are drug related. We are the market for drugs. We’re 5% of the world’s population and we use 80% of the opioids. We need to be doing something different.”

Though he says he’s done with the Cartel Trilogy, Winslow acknowledges it was weird when he sent off his final manuscript.

“That was 20 years of my life, a total of one-third of my life,” he says.

For more information, visit Don Winslow.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET

In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard.

New York Times bestselling author Karen White’s iconic series about a quirky psychic realtor (yes, you read that right!), set in historic Charleston, continues this winter. A long-anticipated gift to her fans, this holiday season White released her first ever Christmas novel.

Jane Ammeson, who writes the Shelf Life column for The Times of Northwest Indiana and shelflife.blog, interviewed Karen about THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET, the sixth book in her Tradd Street Series,

With each new release, Karen’s national platform grows. Her previous installment in the series, The Guests on South Battery (2017), was a New York Times hardcover bestseller. Her books have been featured on Southern LivingReese Witherspoon’s Draper James blogLate Night with Seth Meyers, and more. The author of over twenty books and 12 New York Times bestsellers, she has almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages.

 JA: Since you’re not a realtor and you’re not seeing ghosts (we don’t think so, anyway!), do you have much in common with Melanie—like are you super-organized with lots of charts and spread sheets, etc.?

KW: Let’s just say that people who know me who have also read the Tradd Street series seem to think that Melanie _is_ me.  I’m going to neither confirm nor deny, but let’s just say that I do love to be organized and I also adore sweets (although Melanie’s metabolism is simply something I aspire to).  She and I are both ABBA fans and neither of us can text without many alarming typos.

JA: You grew up all over the world but started off in the south and think of yourself as a Southern girl. Why did you choose historic Charleston for the setting of your series?

KW: My parents (and extended family) are all from the South—mainly Mississippi—which is where I get my Southern roots.  I went to college in New Orleans (Tulane) and actually planned to set the series there.  However, the year I started writing the first book was 2005, the year Katrina wreaked so much havoc on the city and her citizens.  I knew that in the series I was planning to write that this sort of natural disaster and its repercussions wouldn’t fit.  I would return to New Orleans and the storm for The Beach Trees, but for the series I needed to find another Southern city that had gorgeous architecture, lots of history, and plenty of ghosts.  Charleston was an obvious choice.

JA: Your Tradd Street series novels seem to require a lot of research into older homes, renovations and history, can you tell us about that?

KW: Since I was a little girl I’ve been obsessed with old houses.  They didn’t need to be grand or even well-maintained to make me beg my mother to pull the car over to the curb so I could get a better look.  When we moved to London, we were fortunate to live in an Edwardian building on Regent’s Park.  It had leaded glass windows, thick mahogany doors, and ceiling medallions to make a wedding cake envious.  Living in that flat made me believe that I truly could hold a piece of history in my hands.  My obsession continues with my daughter who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from the College of Charleston and currently works as an architectural historian.  She actually appears in the last two Tradd books (as well as Dreams of Falling) as graduate student Meghan Black.

JA: Can you give readers who may not have read any of your other books about Melanie and Jack a description of The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?

KW: In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard.  Unwilling to burden Jack with one more problem and distract him from his writing despite promises that they wouldn’t hold secrets from each other, Melanie takes it upon herself to attempt to solve the mystery behind the ghostly presence—with unsettling results that Melanie may or may not be able to resolve.

JA: Are your ghosts based upon real life (if you can call it that when it comes to ghosts) tales of hauntings in Charleston?

KW: Growing up, my father loved to read true ghost stories to my brothers and me—usually right before bedtime.  I also had a grandmother who always spoke about conversations she’d had with dead relatives.  I suppose that’s the reason why I thought ghosts were like doilies on the backs of chairs—some people had them, some people didn’t.  I continue to enjoy ghost stories (I listen to several podcasts on the subject) and, even though I have never had an experience, my son has three times.  

When visiting Charleston, I love going on haunted walking tours (especially the graveyard ones) and always pick up fascinating tidbits to be used later in my books.  I’ve never borrowed a ghost story for my books, but tend to pick and choose certain parts of favorites and mix them together to fit into my stories.

JA: Do you live in an older home?

KW: Sadly, no.  My husband isn’t a fan of old houses (and in my first book, the derogatory remarks Melanie makes about old houses came right from his litany of why he dislikes old houses—mostly having to do with the expense of heating them).  Every house I’ve lived in since the old Edwardian building in London has been brand new.  I’m hoping my daughter and I can get sway him to our side when it’s time to move again.  Hopefully to Charleston.

JA: Besides a great story and enjoyable read, are there any other take-aways you’d like for readers to get from The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?

KW: This installment can be read on its own.  However, I do think that readers might enjoy the series more if read in order starting with the first book.  The books each have their own mystery to be solved, but the growing cast of characters and Melanie’s growth through the series is an important element and best understood if readers meet her in book #1.

JA: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

KW:  Yes, there are ghosts and some spooky scenes in all of the books.  But these are not paranormal or thriller type books.  These are character-driven stories centered around Melanie Middleton and her relationships with family and friends and set in the gorgeous and historical city of Charleston, South Carolina.  This is Southern Women’s Fiction—with the added bonus of a few spirits who need Melanie’s help to solve a mystery.  

New novel tells story of Russian classic novel

Dr. Zhivago The novel, about two lovers Yuri Zhivago and Lara Antipova and their ultimately doomed romance set against the chaotic backdrop of the decades spanning the Russian Revolution and World War II, would never have been published if Pasternack hadn’t been able to smuggle it out of Russia and into the hands of an Italian publisher.

Lara Prescott, author of The Secrets We Kept

           The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott weaves the threads of fact and fiction as she tells the story of Boris Pasternak, Nobel Prize winning author of Dr. Zhivago and the real life intrigues and machinations first to get the book published against the will of a repressive Soviet regime and then its use by the CIA as a propaganda tool during the Cold War. The novel, about two lovers Yuri Zhivago and Lara Antipova and their ultimately doomed romance set against the chaotic backdrop of the decades spanning the Russian Revolution and World War II, would never have been published if Pasternack hadn’t been able to smuggle it out of Russia and into the hands of an Italian publisher.

          The Soviets, who didn’t want the book to be read, demanded the publisher return it.  He refused, the book was published and became an international bestseller which was turned into a mega-hit movie of the same name.

          Prescott’s mother so loved the movie, she named her daughter after the heroine, Lara Antipova.

          “As a child, I’d wind up her musical jewelry box again and again just to hear it play ‘Lara’s Theme,’” says Prescott about the haunting melody that also became a hit. “I, too, loved the movie, but it wasn’t until I actually read the novel that I felt such a strong connection with the material. It was as if the old master was reaching out to me across time and space—a candle in a window on a winter night.”

But it was Prescott’s father who added another twist to the real life story of the Nobel Prize winning book by sending her an article from the Washington Post about how the CIA spy operation to distribute the book throughout the Soviet Union.

Fascinated by the article, Prescott delved deep into research reading once classified CIA documents, biographies of Pasternack and his muse and inspiration Olga Ivinskaya and visiting his dacha in Peredelkino, now a museum, where he wrote the novel and his gravesite. She tells the story of Pasternack’s persecution (the Soviets made him turn down the Nobel Prize award) through Olga’s eyes as well as those of a woman involved with the CIA.

          “Also at the forefront was telling the story of all those women—many lost to history—who served the United States during WWII and the CIA’s early days,” says Prescott who at first wondered how a book could be the center of a CIA plot before realizing that made a lot of sense. “Of course books could be used in this way because they can change the hearts and minds of people.”

The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing

Adam Frankel tells in his recently released book, The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing, about identity, family trauma and how in family those who came before us impact our own lives.

“This is the book I needed to write,” says Adam Frankel who worked as President Barack Obama’s Special Assistant and Senior Speechwriter.

But Frankel’s book isn’t about those heady days in the White House. Instead, the story he tells in his recently released book, The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing, about identity, family trauma and how in family those who came before us impact our own lives. It begins with his maternal grandparents, both Holocaust survivors who ultimately were able to make it to the United States and settled in Connecticut. But their trauma during those years didn’t end with the freedom and safety they found in New Haven. It echoed through the generations first to their daughter, who suffered from depression and was prone to violent outbursts and then to Frankel himself. But there was more trauma to come for Frankel.

“Shortly before joining the Obama campaign in 2007 I learned that my father was not my dad, a secret my mother had kept from us,” says Frankel, now the vice president of External Affairs at Andela. “In order to wrap my head around it, I had to go back in the past to my grandparents and my mom who had mental health issues.”

When he was writing The Survivors, Frankel says many of his relatives lobbied him to abandon the project. Besides pushback from family, he also had to deal with his own feelings.

“This was a very difficult book to write,” says Frankel, noting that he often had to take hours and sometimes days to step away before he could go back to exploring his family’s story. “Only by writing about it could I process it.”

Frankel, a graduate of Princeton University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was a Fulbright Scholar, describes putting his thoughts on paper as a form of expressive writing where one receives physical benefits when writing about thoughts and issues that are weighing them down.

 “My goals in writing were to be as honest as I could and also to tell the story honestly about how World War II reverberated within my family,” he says. “All families have trauma somewhere and there’s nothing disrespectful about being open and acknowledging that. That’s the way we heal.”

Ifyougo:

What: Adam Frankel talk and book signing

When: Tuesday, November 19, 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Northbrook Public Library, 1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 224-406-9257; jccchicago.org

Matchday Menu: Adam Richman’s New Show

“That it is approachable, nonthreatening, and there is something in Straight Up Tasty for everyone, regardless of their level of experience in the kitchen,” says Adam Richman. “I aim to introduce people to flavors, ingredients, and maybe even techniques that they have not used in their kitchens before. “

               Adam Richman,TV personality, culinary traveler, cook and author, travels so much for his shows such as “Secret Eats with Adam Richman,” that I wondered if he ever woke up in the morning and wasn’t sure where he was.

               “Yes I do,” Richman tells me. “In fact, one time, it was the strangest/saddest/weirdest sensation I’ve ever had. I woke up at home and didn’t know where I was. My first thought was, ‘This must be one of those old boutique hotels that they renovated an apartment to make.’ I honestly did not even recognize my own home. It’s a mixed bag of emotions, but I wouldn’t change up the opportunities I have and have been given for anything.”

               Expect him, though, to know what he is demonstrating when he’s in front of a crowd because Richman is totally into making cooking accessible to everyone.  

A while back I caught up with Richman at the KitchenAid Fairway Club where he was doing a cooking demo when Harbor Shores, a Signature Jack Nicklaus golf course on Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Michigan was the venue for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

               “The recipes are simple but deeply delicious, and each dish can be used for multiple purposes: the salmon can be by itself, or served a top a salad,” Richman says about what has become almost his mantra and why his cookbooks and shows such as “Secret Eats with Adam Richman” and “Man vs. Food.” He now is starring in Matchday Menus, a brand new series on Facebook where he uses football stadium food to explore some of the coolest places in the world. It started three weeks ago and already has almost 3.5 million followers.

               As for the golfing aspect of the tournament, I asked Richman if he played.

               “I was actually on my high school team,” he says “I have not played in ages, and I cannot imagine how my game has suffered as a result of that. I still enjoy the driving range quite a bit, but most of all, my favorite thing about opportunities like this is to meet the people that watch my shows and enjoy the things I do. Because this way, I can give people more of what they want, and find out what else they are interested in that I have yet to explore.”

From real, authentic poutine and Montreal bagels in Quebec, to unbelievable home cooked Latin meals in El Paso,  Matchday Food is the show for you.

               Exploring—whether it’s the backroads and city streets in the United States or internationally—is what Richman’s shows are all about.  How did he decide where to go for shows such as “Secret Eats with Adam Richman?” 

               “The locations for the international season were decided by the network–at least in terms of the cities,” he explains. “Because my shows have had a significant and very fortunate degree of international success, they wanted to film in cities where my shows already had a foothold. In terms of the establishments with in those cities, I am blessed to work alongside an amazing team of storied producers, and I have a great director and show runner. We all do research for a couple of months and then meet with the places we have for each city. It’s actually quite a bit of fun. Everybody is trying to out-secret each other. Everybody tries to find the coolest place, the coolest hidden dish and so on. Ultimately, we look over everything that everyone has brought in, and then try to figure out what makes the best four location episode that really represents the city.”

               Richman says he’s flattered people call him a chef but says he thinks there’s something academic and studious to the word chef.

“I think of myself—excuse the expression—as a badass cook,” he says.  “I may not be a chef, but I’ve worn clogs a few times and baggy checkered pants.”

            The latter clothing list is a nod to Mario Batali, the embattled restauranteur/TV food star/cookbook author who was known for his orange Crocs, hair pulled back into a ponytail and oversized shorts and patterned pants.

            “It used to be if you had a sheath of tattoos up and down your arm, you were a biker,” he continues. “Now it means you can cook a great pork belly.”

            His cooking demonstrations include a lot of digressions as well as action while he’s talking. Slicing a lemon with a mandolin, he tell us about how to avoid taking a slice out of your hand, sharing the story of an incident where he did just that and then lamenting it was too bad, he wasn’t making marinara sauce in order to cover up the accident.  There’s advice against cooking with wine we wouldn’t drink and adding oil to an unheated pan.

             It’s a science thing about the latter, he says, adding it’s important to heat the pan first. That’s because the longer fats cook, the quicker they’ll break down and start to burn impacting both the taste and even releasing harmful toxins.

            How do you know when the pan is hot enough to add oil? Richman shows how but holding his pan close to the surface—really closed.  

            “My mother hates when I do that,” he says, noting that less perilously, splashing a drop or two of water in the pan and seeing if it sizzles also works.

               There are so many cookbooks on the market, what do you tell me people about why they should buy yours.? I ask.

               “That it is approachable, nonthreatening, and there is something in Straight Up Tasty for everyone, regardless of their level of experience in the kitchen,” he says. “I aim to introduce people to flavors, ingredients, and maybe even techniques that they have not used in their kitchens before. I want people to use my recipes as a point of departure for them to then tweak and customize to make them their own. Above all, I want people to have fun. It’s not just recipes – there are poems, essays, even lists of great restaurants to check out that I have discovered in my travels.”

Miso-roasted veggies

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup miso paste (yellow or mild works well with the vegetables here)

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 beets, peeled and cubed

2 12-ounce bags of broccoli florets

2 Spanish onions, cubed

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

¼ cup garlic powder (not granulated garlic) or more to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F

2. In a large bowl, combine the oil and the miso. Add the sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, onions, and garlic cloves and toss to coat.

3. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and add about ¼ inch of water. Add the vegetables to the pan. Dust everything with the garlic powder. Cover the whole dish with aluminum foil.

4. Roast the vegetables for 50 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the veggies, and cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and beets are fully covered. Serve hot or warm.

Smoked paprika onion rings

Ingredients

3 Vidalia onions (or other sweet onion), peeled

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

3 TBS sweet smoked paprika

Vegetable or peanut oil, for deep frying

Kosher salt to taste

1. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the onions into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Separate the rounds into rings.

2. Place the flour, beaten eggs, and panko in three separate shallow bowls. Mix a tablespoon of paprika in each bowl.

3. Dredge the onion rings first in the flour, then in the eggs, and finally in the panko. Place the dredged rings on a baking sheet and allow the coating to set for 10 minutes.

4. In a large pot set over medium-high heat, bring about 4 inches of oil to 365 degrees (use a deep-frying or candy thermometer to check the temperature).

5. Line a separate baking sheet with paper towels. Working in batches, fry the onion rings until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. When done, the rings should float to the surface of the oil. Transfer each batch of fried rings to the prepared baking sheet and season with salt.

6. Keep the finished onion rings warm under layers of paper towels as you cook the remaining batches. Serve hot.

Win-the-bake-sale chocolate cake

Topping ingredients

1 box of Betty Crocker SuperMoist Butter Recipe Chocolate Cake Mix

3 large eggs

½ cup Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise

1 can of store-bought chocolate frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.  

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake mix, eggs, 1 cup of cold water, and the mayonnaise.

3. Pour the mixture into the greased cake pans and spread with a spatula to smooth. Bake according to package instructions. When done, remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool completely.  

4. Invert one of the cake layers onto a plate. Using a rubber spatula, spread a thick layer of frosting over the top. Carefully invert the other cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting. 

Recipes courtesy of Adam Richman.

You Are Awesome: How to Navigate Change, Wrestle with Failure, and Live an Intentional Life

“The reason I began writing my blog, 1000 Awesome Things, and my first book, The Book of Awesome, is because I felt terrible,” he says about those times. “I define resilience as the ability to see that thin sliver of light right between the door and the frame right after you hear the latch click.”

Taking complex psychological concepts and turning them into easily understood bites of practical and usable techniques is one of the strengths of Neil Pasricha, The New York Times million-copy bestselling author. In his latest book, You Are Awesome: How to Navigate Change, Wrestle with Failure, and Live an Intentional Life (part of his Book of Awesome Series), Pasricha shows use a path forward and a way to achieve resiliency—the ability to accept and learn from failure.

“Some people think my concepts are simple,” says Pasricha. “That’s fine. They are. I take big concepts and hundreds of scientific studies and my work is to distill, distill, distill until it is in its simplest and most actionable form. Each of my recent books takes years of reading hundreds of books and research studies, about three-to-six months to write, and about ten deep edits back and forth over about two years.”

Because his concepts are so simple, Pasricha says some people might initially reject them but he developed them as a way to work through his own double whammy Within a short period of time his wife left him as well.

“The reason I began writing my blog, 1000 Awesome Things, and my first book, The Book of Awesome, is because I felt terrible,” he says about those times. “I define resilience as the ability to see that thin sliver of light right between the door and the frame right after you hear the latch click.”

Though he seems amazingly upbeat, Pasricha doesn’t see himself as an optimist, just a person who is resilient enough to face life’s crisis. It’s a lesson, he says, that may seem obvious, but we often overlook.    In psychological terms some of his techniques would be called cognitive reframing, the ability to view and experience events, ideas, concepts and emotion to find more positive alternatives. Or as Pasricha puts it in his book, “Don’t magnify. Don’t Biggify. Don’t amplify.” By building resiliency and the ability to overcome, it breaks a vicious cycle that holds us back.

Any last words of advice I ask him.

 “Life is short,” says Pasricha. “Time is short. And the master attention manipulators of cell phones, news media, and big tech have deep claws. If you managed to momentarily break free and read my book, or listen to my podcast, or read any book for that matter, then you broke out of the matrix. Congrats.”

ifyougo:

When: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 7:00 PM 

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop La Grange, 26 S. La Grange Rd, La Grange, IL

 Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, You are Awesome, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop La Grange (708) 582-6353.

FYI: andersonsbookshop.com

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