True crime doesn’t get any more thrilling than in William C. Rempel’s incredible tale of Jorge Salcedo, the insider who brought down the Cali Cartel in Colombia.
If you’re a regular reader of crime fiction but generally avoid true crime books because they too often read like footnoted legal briefs, William C. Rempel’s “At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel,” will have you questioning your bias against nonfiction.
Rempel’s story is stunning…What sets the book apart, however, is Rempel’s narrative discipline…(The) book is bracingly paced, streamlined in its storytelling and only rarely leaves the compelling point of view of its protagonist, (Jorge) Salcedo, who with his family now lives under the U.S. federal witness protection program.
[…] Salcedo’s life seems daily to be in danger, and “At the Devil’s Table” becomes a full-blown thriller, set against the backdrop of a nation deeply corrupted by drug money. Jason Bourne fans will enjoy the constant betrayals, the escalating use of technology by both the criminals and the good guys, and especially, the elaborate hiding places built into drug lord hideouts.
Salcedo, code-named “Sean” by DEA agents because of an uncanny resemblance to the actor Sean Connery, as a protagonist stacks up well against his fictional counterparts.
“like the finest fictional thriller… (a) true crime masterpiece…”
For more than a decade, veteran Los Angeles Times investigative reporter William Rempel conducted exclusive interviews with Salcedo, never knowing where he lived or even the name he was living under. At The Devil’s Table is the result, and what a riveting and relentless, ever more suspenseful, story it is. The book reads like the finest fictional thriller, fast-paced, full of unexpected twists, and increasingly tense and terrifying. I sucked it down in two days.
Through Salcedo’s inside access to Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, capo of capos of what was largely a family operation, Rempel’s readers are given a never before seen view of the Cali cartel, its inner workings, and its principal players. Salcedo got hired on to help protect the cartel heads and their families from the murderous predations of rival, and much more flamboyantly violent, Medellin cartel head Pablo Escobar.
[...] This is fine drama of the highest order, excellently crafted by a real pro, and makes an exciting and informative summer read. But it’s not an indictment of drug prohibition or an impassioned call for reform—unless you read between the lines. For Rempel the crime reporter, the drug war is little more than the palette on which he can paint his true crime masterpiece, not something to be probed and called into question.
But who can read about the wholesale corruption of the security forces and the political system by prohibition’s filthy lucre, who can read about the assassinations and murders with impunity, who can read about the billions of American tax dollars spent chasing cocaine cowboys across continents in a never-ending game and not call drug prohibition into question?
Rempel the journalist doesn’t have to tell us about the effects of drug prohibition; he shows us, and in a most compelling fashion.
(Excerpt) This book will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is as shocking and riveting as a well-written crime novel…the true story of a man who had the courage to risk everything and even now remains in hiding somewhere in the United States.”
Early Praise for At the Devil’s Table:
“Rempel’s book reads like an action-packed blockbuster, complete with a cast of hot-headed, short-fused drug lords and their trigger-happy underlings…A fast-paced, heart-racing nonfiction thriller.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In this powerful and riveting work of nonfiction, William Rempel demonstrates the virtues of investigative reporting. Gaining access to the figure that could—and indeed did—spill the secrets that brought down a cartel, Rempel has an extraordinary story to tell. He not only takes the reader inside the hidden world of the drug cartels. He also provides a fascinating character study of a man who must answer a simple harrowing question: Should he risk his life in order to save his soul, or should he keep a pact with the devil?”—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
“Bill Rempel has earned his reputation as one of America’s finest investigative reporters the old fashioned way—by getting people to tell him explosive stories they won’t talk about with anyone else. At the Devil’s Table brings Rempel’s skills to the fore as never before, revealing the graphic details of Colombia’s bloody drug wars from the ultimate insider. By the end, you realize that the biggest mystery is how Jorge Salcedo stayed alive long enough to tell Rempel about his amazing life.”—James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
“This fast-paced, beautifully crafted piece of storytelling is filled with unexpected twists and genuine humanity. Rempel weaves extraordinary access to the ruthless world of the drug cartels into a gripping and elegant work of true crime and redemption. In the hands of a masterful reporter and storyteller, even readers familiar with the forbidden realms of traffickers are in for a thrill-ride of surprises with some of the most intriguing characters in non-fiction.”—Douglas Frantz, federal investigator and co-author of The Nuclear Jihadist and Fallout