After ‘The Cartel,’ Don Winslow’s cop novel ‘The Force’ is sneakily subversive

William S. Burroughs once said, “The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window.”

New York Police Detective Denny Malone, the main character of Don Winslow’s 20th novel, “The Force,” has been on the receiving end of a few of those pots.

Malone is the de facto leader of the Manhattan North Special Task Force, which is typically shortened to “Da Force” (and is good for at least three “Star Wars” references), an elite crime-fighting unit based in Harlem.

Malone and his crew are throwbacks, which is to say Winslow unabashedly traffics in blatant stereotypes. Malone’s father was an Irish cop, his brother was a fireman who died during 9/11, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife and mother of his two children is a bitter redhead from an Irish American enclave in Staten Island. Malone drinks Jameson’s Irish whiskey, has tattoo sleeves and punches a heavy bag in his studio apartment because of course he does.

Malone’s job description at Da Force is simple: “Hold the line.” He is envied by his peers and feared by his enemies and sometimes vice versa because Malone is not above accepting favors, taking cuts and shaking down the criminals he pursues for a piece of the action that keeps getting bigger and bigger to feed his bottomless greed.

But these are tough times for anti-crime units that engage in extra-legal activities in gentrifying New York City. “These days, every cop’s got a bull’s-eye on his back,” Malone thinks.

The slings and arrows come not just from the “mopes” and “skels” in the housing projects or Black Lives Matter supporters downtown but from Malone’s by-the-book captain, the Internal Affairs Bureau, the higher-ups in the police commissioner’s and mayor’s offices, and even the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York….

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