To Michael Agger, Cultural Editor at the New Yorker:
In his recent article, “The Missing Story of the Drug War,” Dan Slater characterizes accounts exploring Mexico’s drug trade by Ioan Grillo, Malcolm Beith, Anabel Hernández and myself as “flyover books with little firsthand reporting.”
This is false.
Mr. Grillo and Mr. Beith both lived in Mexico for a number of years while working on their books on the Mexican cartels (Mr. Grillo still lives there), and Anabel Hernández is a respected Mexican journalist who has lived under great threat to her life for many years for her role in exposing the nexus between political power and the drug trade in Mexico, with her house invaded by armed men only last year, and her father kidnapped and killed in 2000.
As for myself, I spent several years working on my book on Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, both in areas of Mexico such as Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Chihuahua and Mexico City, and also in Guatemala and Colombia.
Though I never encountered Mr. Slater in any of the above places mentioned (his own book, I now discover, focuses on the twilight struggle of online dating), his name vaguely rang a bell. I realize now it was because he sent the following email to my publisher, Lyons Press, on the publication of my book, In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America’s Drug War in Mexico, last year:
From: Dan Slater [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2014 9:45 AM
Subject: Review Copy Request: "In the Shadow of Saint Death"
I'm a former Wall Street Journal reporter, current freelance writer, author of a recent book called "Love in the Time of Algorithms" (Penguin).
I'm working on my second book, about the life of a former hit man for the Zetas. I'd love to cite Michael Deibert's book in my book, and I was wondering if it'd be possible to get a review copy of "In the Shadow of Saint Death." If so, I'd be hugely appreciative.
xxx Valley Road
Though in his article Mr. Slater dismisses the idea that “the drug war is...a problem of hypocrisy and delusion in the United States, and of tumult in Mexico,” I would strongly recommend that he leave the Connecticut suburbs behind and immerse himself on the ground in Mexico itself, as Mr. Grillo, Mr. Beith, Ms. Hernández and I (not to mention Mexico's own heroic journalists) have done. There he will see first-hand the stark reality of the tragedy that U.S. practices connected to narcotics, firearms, money laundering and the private prison industry have helped bring about. He just might learn something. The people of Mexico certainly deserve more in-depth coverage of their travails than can be provided by a journalist sitting comfortably behind his desk 2,000 miles away.
Michael Deibert, Author
In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America's Drug War in Mexico (Lyons Press, 2014)
The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (Zed Books, 2013)
Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press, 2005)
Rachel Arons, Associate Culture Editor