An eye-opening insider’s look at the financial aspects of the international drug trade.



Suspenseful memoir of undercover narcotics work.

“That motherfucker Baldasare is a fucking DEA agent. I know it, but I can’t say why.” So grumbled a narcotics kingpin in 1993 about the man who laundered his money for five years: Mazur, working in the guise of someone whose name he picked from an Italian American graveyard on Staten Island. The author, working for the Drug Enforcement Agency, had earned certification as a mortgage broker and then made it known to the members of the Colombian cartel that he was open for business. One of his targets, that kingpin, took the bait. His organization, writes Mazur, moved millions of dollars per year in cocaine, laundering the cash by means of an army of “Smurfs” who would fan out across South Florida, New York City, and other venues to buy money orders, traveler’s checks, and the like with increments of cash that never exceeded a few thousand dollars, thereby allowing them to avoid suspicion. A typical bad guy then “had weekly FedEx boxes containing hundreds of these negotiable instruments shipped to me so I could deposit them and then send him the total of each shipment in one wire transfer.” Mazur’s narrative has its longueurs, but it picks up speed and intensity when he becomes increasingly aware that the cartel has figured out who his real boss is—a development made possible largely because a fellow cop went over to the enemy, fully aware that the cartel had posted a $300,000 bounty “to anyone who killed a DEA agent.” The bad cop is now in prison, but, Mazur observes, the drug trade continues unabated. Long since retired, he ventures that cracking down on launderers—most of them otherwise respectable members of the financial community for whom the job is a feature and not a bug—and establishing “zero tolerance for corruption at all levels” would be a start.

An eye-opening insider’s look at the financial aspects of the international drug trade.

Pub Date: April 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-3297-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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