At the time of writing restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic are easing in many areas. Still, I hope many of you are finding some time to read some books. If you’re looking for something to read, I am going to offer some of my favorite books, and I’ll keep this series going, hopefully well into the future.
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Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel by Tom Wainwright. This book was recommended to me by a DEA agent buddy. He told me it would completely change my understanding of the drug trade and he was absolutely right. In Narconomomics and economist looks at the drug trade like…well, and economist. He explores drug manufacture, transport and logistics, end-user sales, and finance through an economic lens. He explains why drug cartels franchise, like McDonalds. He explains why drug cartels have a reverse monopoly, like WalMart. He explains, as only an economist can, why drug gangs are heavily tattooed (it’s about investment).
Wainwright also speaks from an expert’s perspective about some of the reasons that the drug war has failed so spectactularly. We have focused only on supply while doing little or nothing to curb demand – a model that demonstrably doesn’t work. While we have worked to eliminate supply or raw materials (like coca) drug trafficking organizations now grow enough to cover losses, and have become more efficient processors, making eradication efforts a fool’s errand. Wainright explains the folly of estimating “street value” of product before it has crossed the border, and the danger in reducing the number of border checkpoints (each becomes more valuable and contested).
Narconomics is absolutely fascinating and unlike anything you’ve ever read. I’ve read this book twice and will probably read it again in the near future. To repeat what my buddy said, this book will completely alter your understanding of the drug trade.
In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of its Survivors by Doug Stanton. The devastating story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis is one that has fascinated me for years, and continues to fascinate me. The Indianapolis was sunk during the last days of World War II. Due to a confluence of bad luck no one knew she was sunk for days, and her survivors were cast into one of the most horrific scenes in history: days battling attacking sharks. Though relatively little known, the story of the Indianapolis is part of the backstory for Quint, the grizzled fisherman in Jaws. Stanton’s In Harms’ Way weaves the best account of the Indianapolis I have ever read. This book will haunt you.
The Terminal List by Jack Carr. This is a new addition. I don’t read a whole lot of fiction, but I recently heard Jack Carr on the Joe Rogan Experience and knew I had to check out his books. Carr is a retired Navy SEAL and a just a fascinating guy to listen to. I bought Carr’s first book, The Terminal List and couldn’t put it down. The Terminal List is a story of revenge, and I strongly recommend listening to the Joe Rogan interview for more on that. A Navy SEAL and his team are used as part of an experiment by greedy individuals in power. The one survivor – Commander James Reece – comes for them.
If you care about this sort of thing, there is some incredibly accurate gun writing in The Terminal List – no, “he lowered the hammer on his Glock” or any BS like that. I was very happy to see some digital tradecraft done correctly. In fact, it was so close to the curriculum I have taught to West Coast SEALs I wonder… Probably not, but I was still very gratified to see believable digital tradecraft. I powered through The Terminal List in just a couple days and have already purchased Carr’s other two books: True Believer and Savage Son.
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