PopPolitics: ‘The Force’ Author Don Winslow on the ‘Insanity’ of Trump’s Return to a War on Drugs (Listen)

Don Winslow

Don Winslow’s new epic novel “The Force” centers on NYPD detective sergeant Denny Malone, who leads an elite unit, waging a war on drugs, gangs and guns. Malone is both effective and corrupt, the kind of figure that raises moral questions of when the ends justify the means.

Fox already has snatched up the rights to the novel, published last week, with James Mangold directing and David Mamet adapting the book into a screenplay.

In an interview with Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, Winslow talks about how his own experience, working as a private detective in New York in the 70s, inspired this latest work, as well as how he’s long had the idea of centering one of his novels in the city.

“‘The French Connection’ — I can remember to this moment sitting in a big theater on Broadway in Times Square watching that film, and thinking, ‘Man, this is so exciting, and gritty and vivid. Wouldn’t it be great if some day I could make my living telling stories like this?'” Winslow says.

“The Force” is set in the present day, against a backdrop of politically charged issues over police use of force and the war on drugs.

Winslow is particularly outspoken about the Trump administration’s approach to the drug war, having taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times on Monday in which he says that the president “wants to drag us back into one of the most catastrophic social policies in this nation’s history.”

“What Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have vocalized lately is a return to the worst days of the war on drugs, in terms of maximum sentences, arresting again for marijuana, and pushing for heavy sentences there,” Winslow says. “You would think that 50 years of futility, 50 years of policies that have only made things worse, you try something different.”

Listen below:

Winslow talks about his process of researching “The Force,” including interviews and conversations with cops, combing through court records and studying policing textbooks. After his success in writing on the Mexican drug war in novels such as “The Cartel,” Winslow as said that “cops are harder to penetrate that drug cartels.”

“They are more insular. It’s a more protective kind of society,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many cops told me,’ I only talk to other cops. Only other cops can understand me.’ And both professionally and personally, they have a longstanding habit of keeping things close, keeping things tight. Drug traffickers, particularly the ones you interview in prison, don’t have a lot to lose, and are more amenable to talking and telling stories.”

But Winslow says that once he established trust with NYPD officers, then “you could believe everything that they said. You could go deep with them in ways you never could with drug traffickers.”

Listen below:

Coal Culture

Michael Bonfiglio, director of the documentary “From the Ashes,” talks about the making of his project, which features interviews with displaced coal miners and others who are grappling with the health and environmental impacts of the 19th century energy source.

While President Trump decided to pull out of the Paris climate accords because of his belief that it would harm coal industry jobs, “From the Ashes” shows how the industry is still unlikely to see a rebound in jobs, given the mechanization of the business.

“The coal industry is not a huge employer, and replacing the jobs that the coal industry provides is not an undaunting task at all,” Bonfiglio says.

“From the Ashes” debuted on National Geographic on Sunday, but is available for free on streaming sites like YouTube, Hulu and Amazon until next Monday.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET/11-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.