“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.
80-part Spanish TV series based on At the Devil’s Table “is fascinating to watch…has the dramatic impact of a True Detective, The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire.”
[“En la Boca del Lobo”] may use the telenovela format, but it’s no soapy melodrama…The series, available on Netflix, is well-written, well-produced, well-shot and expertly performed, utilizing the best of Colombia’s acting talent…
Rempel’s book reads like a movie script. It’s tightly written, with sharply edged characters, full of cliff-hangers, suspense, and rich with background information…
What kept me glued to the series was the fascinating story of how the drug kingpins related to each other, their underlings, their women, their enemies, and the corrupt officials they bribed…
The Cali traffickers differed from Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel in that they shied away from violence in the beginning, investing heavily in their community. They owned 40 percent of Cali’s real estate and participated in community projects. Everyone knew what they were up to, but financial prosperity kept them quiet.
Escobar, however, relied on terrorism and assassinations of government officials to get his way. It was at the height of this violence that the Cali cartel’s top boss, recruited (Jorge) Salcedo.
Tucson Citizen. Book Review
(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.”
“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.”