Review: The Big Breach – From Top Secret To Maximum Security – by Richard Tomlinson

the big breach

Richard Tomlinson was a controversial MI6 whistleblower that made international headlines during his messy fallout with Britain’s foreign intelligence service. Initially after a first class degree from Cambridge he was approached for recruitment by SIS but he postponed this work, beginning a career in the city and in his spare time qualifying for the SAS regiment in the Territorial Army. eventually he decided to follow up the MI6 interest and embarked upon a career with the secret service. He was a high flyer in qualification and the interview and was given top jobs following his employment. He was trusted to head out to Moscow and had a rough and ready role in Sarajevo during the Balkan conflict where he got into trouble for not wearing a tie during a diplomatic meet with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadic. His early years looked promising and then suddenly, mid operation whilst dealing with Iranian terrorists, Tomlinson found his security clearance at the spanking new MI6 headquarters revoked and his unpleasant personnel management announced that he had been fired. An angry ex agent, Tomlinson wanted justice and tried to appeal his sacking and to take his employers to an industrial tribunal. Using national security as a barrier to any court action MI6 frustrated Tomlinson’s attempts to overturn the firing. An angry Tomlinson felt he had no recourse but to write a book and tell his story to the world. A manuscript was seized from an Australian publisher and in breach of the Official Secrets Act, Tomlinson was arrested and banged up in the high security Belmarsh prison. On his release Tomlinson had an international cat and mouse game with MI6. Funded by large amounts of taxpayers money they disrupted his life internationally leading to his arrest in various countries where he tried to rebuild his life. His revelations about his work led him to the Princess Diana death tribunal where he revealed an almost identical audacious MI6 plot to assassinate Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic using high powered strobes to disrupt a car whilst travelling through a road tunnel. Eventually Tomlinson had his bitter memoirs published and this book offers a fascinating insight into the murky world of espionage. Ultimately this former spy’s campaign for justice led to MI6 employees getting union rights and employment statuses within the UK as they would working for any other company. This is a fascinating read and a must for any student of the intelligence services.


Review: El Sicario – Confessions of a Cartel Hit Man – by Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden

el sicario

This is an explosive book, real revelations from a sicario or hitman for the Juarez cartel in Mexico. In the murky world of narcotics enforcers are employed by the cartels to assassinate and extort owed money from victims. This sicario was trained as a policeman with this training funded by the narcos. In the law enforcement school he learnt all the surveillance tricks and how to use the necessary weapons that he could employ in the narco world in a Mexico that was careering out of control. Often holed up for weeks or months on end with kidnapped victims, the sicario often had to execute people in an instant at a moment’s notice. Very often he was high on drugs (cocaine) and drink and his world of ultraviolence is revealed in a brutal and honest narrative. As the sicario rose up the ranks and became ever more embroiled in the dirty work, he ultimately found a way out through zealous missionaries who protected him and allowed him to seek repentance for the insidious murders he had committed. This is a journey in a world that is stranger than fiction and the tale is well worth the read.


Review: Escobar: The Inside Story of Pablo Escobar, the World’s Most Powerful Criminal. as Told by His Brother Roberto Escobar


Much has been said about Pablo Escobar, who was the richest criminal in history and the head of the Medellin cartel in Colombia. This book is written from the heart and is an intimate portrait of the great man as remembered by one of his closest associates and a member of his family – his brother Roberto Escobar. Often Roberto will refute some of the more macabre details of Pablo legend as he aims to place the truth into history. We hear the inside story of Pablo’s early years, his breaking into the cocaine trade through contraband trafficking. It is clear how ruthless Pablo could be and even in the early years his business acumen can be unquestioned. There are enlightening tales from Hacienda Napoles. Always there is an emphasis on Pablo Escobar’s Robin Hood qualities with his care of the poor and needy in the slums of Medellin. We see how war was brought to the Colombian government through the Extraditables and also against the Cali cartel. The struggle against the Pepes in latter years is brutal and Roberto has to face a crippling injury after a letter bomb explodes in prison. The whole saga of La Catedral – the prison where they negotiated surrender is revealing. The tale of Pablo Escobar is one of extremes. The amounts of profit and money changing hands are astronomical. Roberto, as a chief accountant of the organisation, is in a position to give some clarity on the range of investments and the inside details of the massive narcotics shipments that were taking place. At the end of the day, this was a business like any other and the violence associated with the hunting down of Pablo and in maintaining his massive empire is out of this world. I think that through this biography we see more of Pablo the Saint and family man than the terrorist and criminal. A great five star read.

Review: Drug Lords – The Rise and Fall of the Cali Cartel – by Ron Chepesiuk

drug lords

If the Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel can be regarded as the Henry Fords of the Drugs business then the Cali cartel with its corporate business acumen can certainly be regarded as the McDonalds. This well-written, detailed biography tracks the rise and fall of the most successful drug cartel in history. Closely focusing on the cartel leaders: Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, Chepe Santacruz and Pacho Herrera – we see how a criminal enterprise can spread its tentacles across the globe. Gilberto the Chessplayer manipulates the board, Miguel’s micromanagement combined with Chepe’s ultraviolence and Pacho’s style, turn this bunch of bandits from the southern Colombian city of Cali into a most feared and efficient drug exporting organisation. There are links to the Italian Mafia and other international gangs such as the Yakuza. Cali were always one step ahead of the law and the DEA had to face unremitting work in order to bring this cartel down over several decades of watching them dominate the markets. They had control of the lucrative New York City cocaine trade from way back in the 1970s and went on to control 70-80% of Colombian cocaine exports. There was war with the Medellin cartel but an uneasy truce with the Colombian government with a web of corruption extending right to the top with Ernesto Samper’s Presidential campaign allegedly being infiltrated by large inputs of Cal narco-dollars. The story could be that of any large multinational corporation – the Cali Godfathers were experts at laundering their money in conventional businesses. The tale is ultimately a massive success for law enforcement but the amazing true narrative will shock readers and leave you in awe of what can be deemed as the ultimate organisation in the world of narco-trafficking. A five star read.

Review: Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare

mao tse-tung on guerrilla warfare

Having covered Che Guevara’s thoughts on Guerrilla Warfare I was keen to visit those of Chairman Mao. After guiding the Communist Party on its 6000 mile Long March across China, Mao Tse-tung united with Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces in order to repel the Imperial Japanese invader that had set up in the North and East of China, a China that was semi-feudal and semi-colonial. Mao emphasises the need of self discipline within Guerrilla bands and lays clear in this treatise the necessity of political indoctrination and unity within Guerrilla forces. The emphasis is constantly on attack, often to the enemy’s rear and withdrawal and dispersal of small Guerrilla bands is encouraged. The rules of Guerrilla warfare are quite laid out clearly and concisely and it is apparent how Maoist thought inspired later guerrilla movements across the globe including, for example, the Senderoso Luminoso or “Shining Path” of Peru. In terms of revolutionary ideology this is an essential text for the practical application of revolutionary warfare. The appendices at the conclusion of the text contains some very neat diagrammatic representations of the structure of Guerrilla forces and is a useful reference tool.

Review: Gangster Warlords – Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America – by Ioan Grillo

gangster warlords

This is the second of Ioan Grillo’s books that I have read and I found this volume equally as good as my first encounter with this talented British journalist. Gangster Warlords focuses on 4 separate crime gangs across the Americas. For each group we identify leaders, politics, often brutal and horrendous crimes and a link to the out of control trade in Narcotics across Latin America and the Caribbean that gives rise to the conditions necessary for Gangster Warlords to thrive. The first part looks at the Comando Vermelho or Red Commando of Brazil, focussing on a biography of the ‘brain’ of the guerrilla / criminal gang, William da Silva Lima. From open bocas selling drugs on the streets of the Rio favelas, to political indoctrination in the fusion of leftwing political prisoners and armed robbers in Brasilian jails, this story is eyeopening and violently disturbing. The second part covers Jamaica’s Shower Posse with the rise and fall of its President, Christopher Michael Coke or ‘Dudus’. The impact one man’s crimes can have upon an entire political system that reaches deep into the depths of global cities with their yardie drug gangs highlights how uneasy a relationship is struck between warlords and governments. Third up we have coverage of the gangs of the Northern Triangle – Honduras and El Salvador with its imported from Los Angeles headlining crime group the Mara Salvatrucha. The brutal murder rate of these guys strikes fear into even the hardiest of Latin American gangs with the MS-13 being recruited by powerful Mexican cartels such as Sinaloa to do their dirty work. The global reaches of violent criminal empires is apparent. Lastly there is a focus on Nazario Moreno, El Chayo – El Más Looa – The Maddest One. and his Knights Templar. This NarcoSaint formed from the nucleus of the La Familia Michoacana a devoted following based around the medieval style religious teachings and devotion of the holy warrior monks of the Middle Ages. He faked his death at one stage until he was finally put into his grave by the fierce war with autodefensas who in vigilante justice were the only solution to his expansive Crystal Meth and Marijuana empire. The whole book encompasses many of the same themes. Recurrent violence, cocaine smuggling and distribution internationally, political unrest and inadequate government coping strategies. In his conclusions Grillo identifies possible solutions to the War on Drugs, highlighting a changing shift in drug legalisation policies and improved political coping strategies combined with education. It’s fantastic, griping page-turner of a book which I regard as a five star read, perfect for anyone with an interest in the international politics and crime of the Narcotics world.

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.