‘Wolf Boys’ follows American teens employed by drug cartels on Texas border


“Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel” (Simon & Schuster), by Dan Slater

Dan Slater’s “Wolf Boys” follows the story of Gabriel Cardona from his birth in Laredo, Texas, in 1986 to his eventual career as a hit man with the Los Zetas drug cartel.

After pursuing a criminal career in high school, the teen catches the eye of a Mexican drug cartel and is lured into working south of the border. The job brings a steady income, respect from his friends and enemies, and a sense of belonging.

Meanwhile in Texas, Robert Garcia, a Mexican-born detective, fights a drug war with which he’s quickly becoming disillusioned. But when Gabriel’s work with the drug trade brings him back to the United States, Robert’s involvement suddenly gets more personal.

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Slater’s work depicts the day-to-day horrors of drug cartel operations. From brainwashing at boot camp orientation where children and men learn the practicalities of murder to company hierarchies, parties and rules of conduct, gritty details unfold in grueling fashion.

The author also explores the complicated relationship between cartel members and their families. Mothers, girlfriends and wives beg their loved ones to turn away and pursue legal employment yet eagerly accept the perks of drug trade — wads of cash, new cars and name brand clothes. In one scene, a teen shoots an enemy who sits in the driver’s seat of a Lexus with his family. In the next, the mother of the victim sells plates of chicken and rice on the side of the road to pay for the funeral.

Slater traces the history and money among cartels, politicians, authorities and the media in Mexico and America’s border towns. While few maintain clean hands, Slater expounds on the complexities tethered to each pass of currency. Thoroughly researched with stark details, “Wolf Boys” shines a glaring light on the atrocities of cartel life.