Author Interview "Jake Kaminski"
Jake Kaminski divides his time between overseas consulting and writing. He is currently working as an executive producer for a reality police show in development for the Oxygen Channel. He has traveled extensively, living for fifteen years in Europe, including time spent in the war-torn battlefields of Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. He speaks several languages and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in both Spanish and French. Jake holds a black belt in Taekwondo and has trained fighting techniques to undercover agents around the world.
Is this your first book?
Yes. I have written a few short stories, but this is the first.
You have had a very interesting and unusual career. Can you give me a quick overview?
I began my undercover work very early in my career. I started as an undercover detective in the late seventies, when the drug world was much tamer. It was the days of bales of marijuana being smuggled by shrimp boats and planes landing in remote parts of south Florida. Not sure if there are any remote places left in Florida now…
In the mid-eighties I was assigned to run an undercover drug squad. I learned quickly that the drug world had changed dramatically. This was at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and the peak of the Colombian drug cartels’ power. For six years we worked undercover operations targeting the Cali and Medellin cartels. We ran pretty sophisticated operations and had a fair amount of success. I worked extensively on task forces with the FBI, DEA, and the ATF. Our investigations took us throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
After over twenty-five years of policing, I retired from active service. Not one to sit around, I returned to university to brush up on my languages and eventually took a position as an adviser for the U.S. government. That job was to provide technical assistance to governments in the Balkans. I was able to provide advice and training to places like Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania on matters relating to human trafficking, money laundering, organized crime and war crimes. I lived and worked in that region for fourteen years. It was an excellent experience…and also a very humbling experience.
How has your career influenced/intersected with your book?
I think a great deal of my life experience is reflected in the book and the characters. During my years working in south Florida, I got to know the methods and the mindset of the powerful drug lords. We were able to see, from the inside, just how these vicious, powerful men ticked. The famous Colombian philosophy of “when in doubt, kill everybody”, was an everyday reality in Miami and the rest of south Florida. Their total disregard for the value of human life and dignity was astonishing. It dictated how we set up our undercover deals and how we approached each investigation.
In this book, the story revolves around the Mexican cartels. They operate a little differently, but only because they are basically sub-contractors for the Colombian cartels. If anything, they are more vicious than their Colombian predecessors. The novel deals specifically with a small part of the cartel business, and that is human trafficking. It is a very real problem, and I try to portray the cruelty of the traffickers set against the plight of the trafficked. I try to show the utter hopelessness of the girls and women who are caught up in this trade.
While in the Balkans, I witnessed firsthand the horrors of human trafficking. I also saw a great deal of the aftermath of mass killings. I also spent time with victims of these tragedies and I think it gave me a good perspective to tell a story like Shadow Wolves.
What inspired you to write the book?
I think a lifetime of witnessing drug trafficking and human trafficking was a big factor. Reading about these things in the headlines is not the same as seeing it up close. The crime lords who are involved in trafficking of women, drugs and weapons are true sociopaths. They don’t think like the rest of us. There is no remorse, no guilt, and no warm fuzzy heart hidden beneath their tough exteriors. They only care about one thing-maintaining their own power. They have no problem leaving scores of bodies in killing fields just to send a message to their competition or to citizens who might be tempted to turn them in to the authorities.
I found such a striking similarity between the Serbian militias and the drug cartels when it came to mass killings. There was a certain defiance in how they both committed these atrocities and I thought it was a natural connection to include in the story.
Another inspiration occurred during meetings that I had with two Native American trackers while stationed in the Balkans. They were both members of the real Shadow Wolves in New Mexico. I found these men to be extraordinary men doing an extraordinary job. I watched as they trained agents and police officers from the Balkan countries and was astonished at their skills. These men could follow a trail across sheer rock and see traces of movement in blades of grass, all with the naked eye. Their abilities went beyond just skill, it really bordered on magic.
I also took part in long discussions with them about the Native American experience when working as federal agents in America. We talked about culture, language and religion. It struck me that a story about these people should be told.
Who are the Shadow Wolves and is this a true story?
First of all. This is not a true story. It is pure fiction. However, there really is a team of trackers known as the Shadow Wolves. They do work on the Mexican border and are a vital element of our law enforcement presence in southern Arizona.
My story is a fictionalized version of the Shadow Wolves. I have changed the reality of their formation and pretty much everything else about what their operation looks like in real life. However, I have tried to portray a group of strong and courageous Native Americans in a battle to the death with the most powerful drug cartel in North America. I sincerely hope that I have kept true to the spirit of the men and women in the real Shadow Wolves.
When I first introduced my main characters, it was in the Bosnian conflict, which took place almost twenty years ago. Three of the Native Americans are young Army Ranger scouts helping to track the murderous militias roaming the Bosnian countryside. In my research I learned that Native Americans enlist at a higher percentage than any other ethnic group in America, and I injected that sense of duty and honor into the story. That war was tragic. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians were slaughtered, largely in the name of religion. The Native American scouts were a perfect “Greek Chorus”. They were thrust into a war they did not understand, fought primarily over “white man’s religions”. Their observations and questions are very relevant, and I think timely.
How would you describe the book?
I would say it’s an action/adventure book with elements of a crime drama. My hope is that the book is more a story on the human condition than anything else. It was my primary goal when weaving the storyline. Through the eyes of my protagonists, the reader sees horrors of the Balkan conflict and the cruelty of the drug wars of the southern American borderlands. It is a close-up view of “man’s inhumanity to man”, five hundred years after Cervantes coined that phrase.
The novel follows the life of Ethan Crowe, a Lakota Sioux whose tracking skills are exceptional. We meet him as a young Army scout and learn that following his deployment in Bosnia, he has remained in the service of his country for twenty years, working for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). He has tracked bad guys all over the world, risking his life for a country that has not always been kind to his people.
Shortly after his retirement, Crowe is living in a quiet corner of Venice, licking his wounds. He has just lost his wife and young son at the hands of a Burmese drug lord while Ethan was posted in Thailand.
Thousands of miles away, the Zeta drug cartel has assassinated a tribal police officer on the Mexican border. It is the last straw for Homeland Security. They have decided to put together a team comprised of expert Native American trackers to bring the battle to the cartels. Crowe’s former commanding officer is now in Washington and he knows that Crowe is the only man to lead the team. Crowe is reluctant to come out of retirement, but he learns that the tribal police officer who was murdered is the younger brother of a man that once saved Crowe’s life. He knows he has no choice, it is a matter of blood honor.
The action then shifts to the desert, months later. The team is up and running and Crowe is the boss. His team is comprised of trackers from tribes across the country. Two of the trackers are women, Apaches. They quickly become central characters. They are fierce, brave, and beautiful. We now start to see the story unfold through their eyes.
These two women are on routine patrol of the border when they discover a group of young girls being trafficked north into the American desert by the Zeta drug cartel. The women are being abused and raped by the cartel thugs as they march slowly across the unforgiving desert. This discovery will ultimately lead to a battle that will change the lives of the cacaptive women and the Shadow Wolves themselves. I wanted the story to be as “real and gritty” as possible. I also wanted to tell a story that would have elements of romance and action. I think I succeeded. Set in the twenty-first century, we are able to follow the adventures of brave men and women flying across the deserts on wild mustangs in pursuit of bad guys that could have existed at any time in history, but happen to exist now.
This book is very timely given what we see in the news. Did you have that in mind when you wrote it?
Honestly, no. I tried to write this book with no particular political bias. I portrayed the drug cartels for what they are, evil and predatory. They have been with us long before the current controversy.
There are probably going to be people from both sides of the current controversy that will stop and say, “See, I told you!”, but the action in this novel is centered solely on the battle between good and evil that is taking place as we speak. Brave agents and cops go to work everyday to face these realities.
Do you plan to write a sequel to Shadow Wolves?
Yes. I am currently working on the sequel. It will be titled Ghostwalker and will center heavily on Ethan Crowe and some of his team as they take their fight into the highlands of Central Mexico and into the “belly of the beast”.
For more information, visit: www.jakekaminski.net
About The Book
A story set in the remote deserts of the Mexican borderlands. Modern day Native American trackers fighting the powerful drug cartels as they send billions of dollars in drugs to the north and sell innocent young women into a lifetime of sexual slavery.
The reader will find themselves immersed in this thrilling tale of brave men and women tracking violent, merciless criminals, using skills passed down through generations of their ancestors. A modern war still being fought on horseback and on foot. The Shadow Wolves, coming from tribes across the U.S., will haunt the drug lords and their gangs. They will track the cartels like ghosts from the past.