Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Elaine Shannon's "Hunting LeRoux"

Elaine Shannon, acclaimed veteran correspondent for Time and Newsweek, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can’t Win, which served as the basis for Michael Mann’s Emmy-winning NBC miniseries Drug Wars: The Camarena Story, and its Emmy-nominated sequel, Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel. Shannon is a highly respected investigative reporter, trusted by law enforcement and intelligence organizations, and an expert on terrorism, organized crime, and espionage. She is the author of No Heroes: Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force and The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen.

Shannon applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hunting LeRoux: The Inside Story of the DEA Takedown of a Criminal Genius and His Empire, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Jack found it bizarre that LeRoux entrusted a dissolute creep like Smith with so much money and property, but then, everything about LeRoux was inscrutable. All Jack could figure was, Smith was not only LeRoux’s alter ego but also his lightning rod. Smith attracted all the attention. If anything bad happened, it was easy to believe that this central-casting bad guy was the guilty one. Nobody seemed to ask who was behind him.

Over a beer or two, Smith satisfied himself that Jack was who he said he was. In a couple of days, he decided it was time for Jack to meet the Boss.

But not at Sid’s. Never at Sid’s. LeRoux never darkened the doors of the pub. For one thing, he didn’t drink. “His brain had to stay clear all the time,” Jack said. For another, he didn’t like to socialize. Smith, Leo, and the other mercenaries who frequented the place were just hired hands—tools. Their conversation, about tits, sausages, and guns, was too basic to interest LeRoux.

Smith escorted Jack to LeRoux’s penthouse for the job interview. At the door, Smith handed Jack off to three Filipino bodyguards who searched him for weapons and wires and ushered him into the cavernous living room.

LeRoux lumbered in, lowered himself onto one of the straight-backed chairs, pulled it up to the square table, and motioned for Jack to sit across from him. He didn’t offer his guest as much as a cup of tea. When he walked into the penthouse, Jack assumed that LeRoux was a fat tech mogul with a boatload of cash and an itch to do something more colorful. A nerd. But when the big man began to speak, Jack changed his mind. This guy was no nerd, and he wasn’t soft. He was a force of nature, like a big wave that bowled you over if you resisted but floated you upward if you gave in. He expressed himself clearly, in complete sentences, no “uhs,” “ums,” “y’knows,” “likes,” or the dreaded “Know what I’m sayin’?” His supremely confident attitude was overpowering. He clearly knew what he wanted and where he was going to get it. When Jack was in LeRoux’s presence, it didn’t occur to him not to obey.
This Page 99 test is uncanny. Brilliant. I’m sure that Hunting LeRoux passes the test.

On page 99 of Hunting LeRoux, a guileless young seafarer in search of adventure finds it, and a lot more. Readers already sense how this will go. The young man chooses the name Jack, but he might have picked Ishmael or Willard or Marlow.

Through Jack’s eyes, we meet LeRoux’s gatekeeper, Dave Smith, a professional killer addled by meth and sex, and then the Boss himself. LeRoux comes into focus slowly, as Jack struggles to assess the hulking, complicated character who is about to take possession of his soul. We see LeRoux’s confident smile and begin to smell what’s behind it, the monster clawing to get out.

Nobody in Hunting LeRoux is what he seems. Paul LeRoux looks like a rich eccentric nerd. In fact, he is a renegade tech entrepreneur who becomes the first Silicon Valley-style organized crime boss. He launches a crime network with a computer and three or four people. His virtual network, globalized and highly efficient and effective, can supply the full range of illegal commodities in ways old-school Mafiosi and cartels never dreamed. He enjoys killing and wants to do more.

On Page 99, when LeRoux begins to speak, he takes control of the room, revealing himself as a “force of nature.” It is a display of psychic power LeRoux will repeat many times. Jack’s confusion and passivity foreshadow an off-balance relationship destined to grow more twisted and intense. We know enough about human nature to ask, when will Jack snap? And what happens then? Because we’re already pretty sure Jack won’t get away on his own.

The question foreshadows the arrival of hunters – Tommy Cindric and Eric Stouch, the DEA partners who find out about LeRoux, climb up into LeRoux's strange big brain, and match him move for move. When they find out he’s a chess player, they call their investigation Operation Checkmate. Their play is far more intricate than chess. They have to figure out what will tempt a man who has almost everything he wants. What’s left? But Tommy and Eric aren’t as simple as they pretend. They have secrets of their own.
Visit Elaine Shannon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue