Don Winslow’s epic Cartel Trilogy is headed to TV, with FX purchasing the rights to all three of the author’s harrowing novels about life, death, and loyalty in the crossfire of the international drug war.
The final book in the series, The Border, just debuted last week and reached No. 3 on the New York Times Best Seller list yesterday.
The plot of the series is vast in scale, but the official synopsis summarizes it this way: “It portrays Mexican cartel power struggles, the narcos and cops on both sides of the border, the traffickers and drug mules, lawyers, journalists, junkies, teenage hitmen, children seeking asylum, and political corruption from poppy fields in Mexico to the White House.”
John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, acknowledged the challenge of adapting the three sprawling novels into episodes of television.
“Nothing excites the team at FX more than the daunting challenge of helping great creators make a television show as ambitious and good as the epically acclaimed books on which it will be based,” Landgraf said. He called the books “one of the great crime epics of all time.”
Winslow, a former private investigator and trial consultant, has been researching the cartels and American drug enforcement agents for nearly two decades, and he began his trilogy focusing on the odyssey of obsessive DEA agent Art Keller with 2005’s The Power of the Dog.
He continued the story of Keller and cartel leader Adán Barrera a decade later with 2015’s The Cartel, which hit shelves just a month before “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the inspirations for Barrera, shocked the world with a dramatic tunnel escape from a penitentiary outside Mexico City.
The Border continues the story in the present day. Although Winslow works in fiction, his narratives are fortified with details of the actual bloodshed and brutality that perforates the boundaries of both the U.S. and Mexico, as well as the Central American nations caught in up in the trafficking networks.
The real-life Guzman was recaptured, placed in U.S. custody, and convicted last month on all ten counts of drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons charges in a trial that also revealed his horrific brutality, including numerous cold-blooded killings and the rape of underage girls.
In The Border, Barrera is also out of the picture, but as with the real drug war that has only brought a different kind of chaos and bloodshed.
“This is closely based on reality – in which Guzman’s family fell into conflict with each other, with other elements inside the heretofore dominant Sinaloa cartel, and with other cartels who saw blood in the water and rushed in to attack,” Winslow told EW in a recent interview. “As a result, we swapped one wolf for a dozen coyotes.”
Winslow will serve as an executive producer of the series along with writer and agent Shane Salerno, who represents him through his Story Factory company.
Winslow and Salerno first collaborated together on the 2001 crime series UC: Undercover, which they co-created and executive produced with Landgraf.
Ridley Scott had also been considering adapting The Cartel into a feature film, but now he will also be an executive producer of the TV series. A showrunner has not yet been announced.
Winslow’s work has previously been adapted with the 2012 Oliver Stone kidnapping drama Savages, starring Taylor Kitsch, and the 2007 mistaken-identity thriller Bobby Z starring Paul Walker and Laurence Fishburne.
His 2017 novel The Force, about an outlaw New York cop, is currently being adapted by Logan and Copland filmmaker James Mangold and Out of Sight and Logan screenwriter Scott Frank, while his 2011 historical novel Satori is in development at Warner Brothers for producer and star Leonardo DiCaprio.