Early on Saturday morning, onstage at the Santa Fe Literary Festival, Don Winslow spotted a suspicious figure quietly approaching through the audience on hands and knees. “Oh, you’re a photographer!” the 68-year-old author exhaled a moment later. “I was wondering who was crawling up here. You understand that a lot of people really don’t like me?”
In the three decades since the publication of his debut private eye novel A Cool Breeze on the Underground, Winslow has managed to make himself his fair share of enemies. He received some particularly unwelcome attention after spending 23 years exhaustively researching drug cartels for his revelatory and award-winning Cartel Trilogy. “I was getting threats from drug traffickers,” he tells me, shortly after making it safely offstage. “I didn’t, and don’t, take them terribly seriously because there’s no upside for them to kill an American writer in America. It would be very bad for business, and at the end of the day they’re business people.”
These days Winslow is much more wary about a different sort of menace.
“Now the threats come from the right wing,” he explains. “It’s the Proud Boys. Again, I don’t take it terribly seriously. Most of those people are physical as well as moral cowards. I can take care of myself, but I’m definitely more aware of my surroundings at events like this.”