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Bestselling author Don Winslow takes guests on a lecture journey at The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild’s March Author Talk. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene.
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Bestselling author Don Winslow visits library

RANCHO SANTA FE — It was a sold-out event for The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild’s March Author Talk with New York Times bestselling author Don Winslow.

The March 11 function held at the Rancho Santa Fe Library highlighted Winslow’s final chapter to his trilogy with his last work titled “The Border.”

Before diving into his crime fiction work, he talked about his penchant for libraries. His deep-rooted fondness for libraries stems from his mother who was a librarian.

“The other day, I was thinking how libraries were a revolutionary concept and how essential libraries were to the creation of democracy,” he said, adding how people had access to all the world’s available knowledge.

And this was centuries before the internet.

Winslow doesn’t think the rise of Western democracies around the creation of free lending libraries was coincidental. With libraries, people had access to information, news, and different opinions, he shared.

He also noted that libraries welcome all despite their economic status, class, or gender.

“I’m always happy when I’m asked to speak at libraries, so it’s very nice to be here today,” he said.

Winslow described “The Border” as the third of the completing volume in a drug-war trilogy. Winslow pointed out that it was never intended to be a trilogy.  

It first began with “The Power of the Dog” followed by the “The Cartel” published in 2015.

“After each of those books, I said I was done with the topic of drug trafficking. I promised myself and promised other people including my wife that I was done with this topic. I wasn’t lying — I was simply wrong,” he said.

It was the character of Art Keller that made Winslow rethink things. At the end of “The Cartel,” Winslow thought that he resolved Keller’s major conflicts rather decisively.  

“I thought the story was over factually — it’s funny how you can lack perspective on something by being so close to it,” Winslow said. “Things changed — Mexico entered its most violent years in the past two years and the chaos following the demise of the Sinaloa Cartel. The heroin epidemic exploded here in the United States, immigration became an issue again, and we experienced a rather drastic political change.”

Winslow said he realized that the story had not ended. He still needed to resolve Keller’s conflicts since the character was still a deeply divided man.  

Winslow said he needed to bring the story home, just as he needed to bring Keller home.

“I needed to write about the heroin epidemic. I needed to write about immigration. I needed to write about things going on in this country, and that was the only way that I was going to resolve this either for myself or for this fictional guy, Keller,” he said.

Winslow said it was recently pointed out to him that he has spent a third of his life with Keller.

“I’ve spent more time with Art Keller than I’ve spent with any other real human being in my life. That’s about to come to an end,” he said.

Winslow said that he originally was going to title his last piece as “The Wall.” On his eighth draft, he made the switch.

“I changed my mind because I wanted to talk about not only a physical border between countries. While a border separates two countries it’s also something that the two countries have in common — we share a border,” he said. “But I also wanted to write about internal borders. There are borders of ethics, borders of morals and psychological borders.”

Winslow said he knew he was finished with the trilogy when he dealt with these various types of “border” questions and dilemmas.

For Winslow, there were three core questions he wanted to target. How do you live decently in an indecent world? Do we cross these borders? And lastly, if one crosses these borders, can they ever cross back?

“The last question is for both Art Keller and for myself. Now, I’m in the process of crossing back from this border of having written about this world for 22 years now,” Winslow said.