Book Review: How to Get Away With Murder in America by Evan WrightPosted: March 11, 2013
Evan Wright is the kind of writer I’d like to be, he’s done work like Generation Kill where he was embedded with a unit during the war in Iraq or Hella Nation, a collection of pieces about weird American subcultures and oddballs. Going out there, experiencing new things, challenging myself and then writing about them.
His writing style is wonderful, filled with a great eye for detail and personality and also a dark sense of humour throughout.
I got this book for my Kindle around the same time I purchased Generation Kill, which is high on my “to read” list, but decided to read this first, and I’m glad I did because it’s a belter.
The book follows Wright’s investigations into claims that the CIA actively protected a suspect in murder and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act- a legal tool used in the US to bring down organized crime) cases in Florida. Wright was initially skeptical as his source wasn’t reliable, but further digging revealed aspects of his story to be true.
The book then details Wright’s investigation into Ricky Prado, a man who rose high in the ranks of the CIA and worked for them during the 1980s war on drugs, as well as being involved in counter terrorism work before and after 9/11.
It appears that in his younger life Prado worked with Florida cocaine smuggler and gangster Albert San Pedro, and the book details this relationship which continued well into Prado’s career within the agency. The story that unfolds is startling, with strong evidence to suggest that Prado was a heavy and hitman for San Pedro.
What unfolds is a startling expose of the corruption within the halls of power in the 70s and 80s, with San Pedro exercising considerable influence over Florida’s law enforcement and political figures.
It’s a murky world peopled with selfish politicians and criminal scumbags, and the only hero present is a cop who’s Quixotic attempts to fight the obstacles he encounters and bring San Pedro and others to justice borders on obsession. The cop’s story is one of the saddest aspects of the whole tale with press coverage, corruption and incompetence all derailing his career and that of his dedicated team of coworkers.
The CIA angle comes in later, with Prado joining up and doing work for the Agency in the 80s, and then the CIA refusing to cooperate with federal investigators who attempted to discover more evidence linking Prado to a string of murders related to the drugs trade, some occurring after he began working for the government.
The dodginess doesn’t stop there, with the CIA seeming to protect Prado and Prado then going on to work for companies the Agency outsourced to, which performed several shady jobs for them during the “war on terror”. This section is utterly fascinating and reveals some of the murky world of 21st century espionage and counter terrorism.
Wright has stumbled onto a dynamite story, populated with a cast of interesting, shady characters and he does a good job in going over old records and interviews and detailing the strong suggestion that the CIA did cover for one of it’s own as well as several other instances of corruption and cover up.
He writes it all in a compelling manner and does a fantastic job of not only reporting the evidence but in crafting a genuine sense of character in several of the major players, with Prado alone remaining something of a mystery. There’s an enthusiasm and wit to Wright’s work as he unravels more and more of the story.
Wright allows his own feelings to come through whether in the slightly sarky tone he adopts at times as he relates events or statements made by some of the players, to his indignation at some of the US government’s more morally dubious acts in the wars on drugs and terror.
It’s a cracking read, and unlike most conspiracy theories this one doesn’t rely on paranoid visions of extreme government control and rather suggest the system is weekend by basic human flaws like greed, selfishness and petty jealousies and rivalries. The evidence is fairly compelling and you come away astonished by some of the revelations and keen to know more.
Verdict: A compelling and at times shocking insight into the drugs trade, and the level of corruption that has been committed within the American justice system. Also, the revelations regarding the work of the CIA and it’s outsourcing is frankly terrifying. Wright writes with intelligence and skill, crafting a gripping read and his righteous anger about some of the events is clear to see. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.