The Power of the Dog

This article is about the 2005 Don Winslow novel. For the 1967 novel, see Thomas Savage (novelist).
The Power of the Dog
Author Don Winslow
Country United States
Language English
Genre Thriller, Crime novel , Historical novel
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 539 pages
ISBN 0-375-40538-0
OCLC 56912098
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3573.I5326 P69 2005

The Power of the Dog is a 2005 crime/thriller novel by Don Winslow, based on the DEA's involvement with the War on Drugs. The book was published after six years of writing and research by the author.

Plot summary

Winslow's novel describes three decades of the United States war on drugs by following several main characters: The DEA agent Art Keller, Adán Barrera, who controls large parts of the drug trade from Mexico to the United States of America, the prostitute Nora Hayden and Sean Callan, a gangster from the streets of New York. Keller becomes obsessed with the Barrera family after they tortured and killed a DEA agent in Mexico. Trying to avenge his colleague Keller discovers massive involvement of the US and the Mexican government in drug trade operations. The CIA prevents him from taking revenge on the drug cartels to combat left activists in Latin America.

Winslow shows the brutality of the war of drugs with very graphic scenes involving torture and massacres. He also explains with many details how the drug trade worked and how the different organisations collaborated to achieve their respective goals—from the Mexican drug cartels to the Vatican.


Arthur "Art" "Arturo" Keller : DEA agent, participant in the Operation Condor, obsessed with hunting down the Barreras, and other people responsible for killing his friend. Husband of Althea, father of her children.

Adán Barrera: Nephew of Don Miguel Angel Barrera, brother of Raúl. Drug trafficker. Nicknamed Lord of the Skies. Based on Benjamín Arellano Félix.

Nora Hayden: Prostitute. In love with Juan Parada, lover of Adán, Sean, and Jimmy Piccone.

Sean Callan: Irish mobster and hitman for the Italian mafia.

Don Miguel Angel "Tio" Barrera: El Patrón, head of the drug trafficking organization. Uncle of Adán and Raul. Based on Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo.

Juan Ocampo Parada: Cardinal, priest of the Barrera family. Nora's friend. Based on Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.

Güero Méndez: Drug trafficker, first an ally, then an enemy of the Barrera family. Husband of Pilar and father of her children. Based on Héctor "Güero" Palma Salazar.

Sal Scachi: Former Colonel of the United States Army, now member of the Cimino crime family.

Jimmy Picone: Member of the Cimino crime family, acquaintance of Sean Callan and Sal Scachi.

Fabián "El Tiburon" Martinez: Main hitman of Raul Barrera.

Raúl Barrera: Younger brother of Adán, Co-leader of the Barrera cartel. Based on Ramón Arellano Félix.

Gloria Barrera: Daughter of Adán and Lucia.

O-Bop: Friend of Sean Callan, Irish mobster.

Ramos: Friend of Arthur, member of the Mexican Police.

Ernie Hidalgo: Friend of Art Keller, member of the DEA. Based on Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.

Allusions to actual history, geography and current science

The Power of the Dog starts in 1975 and follows the DEA's War on Drugs and various aspects of Operation Condor.

CIA involvement in Contra cocaine trafficking is central to the book's plot.

Portrayal of the Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio's murder in Tijuana on March 23, 1994.

Aspects and some of the resolutions of the Cristero War are mentioned.

Winslow includes the 1985 Mexico City earthquake and its far reaching consequences for Mexico into the plot.

Film Adaptation

In 2015 20th Century Fox paid $6 million for the film rights to both The Power of the Dog and its sequel The Cartel.


In 2015 the novel was followed up with a sequel titled The Cartel, which follows Keller from 2004 to 2014 as he continues to track down Barrera after he escapes from prison. The Cartel is currently being adapted into a film adaptation by Ridley Scott.

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