“Brilliantly crafted … an evocative tour through places that are too often ignored.”
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown director Tom Vitale
From Public Radio International’s award-winning Asia correspondent comes a portrait of Southeast Asia through the lens of organized crime — a world of narco-barons, vigilantes, motorbike bandits and others caught up in a mad scramble for cash.
Organized crime is entering a golden age in Southeast Asia. Though steadily ignored by Western media — which prefers to fixate on Mexican cartels or Sicilian mafia — this sector is exploding. By 2025, the region’s black markets will generate $375 billion per year, more than many Asian nations’ legit economies.
This boom is abetted by authoritarianism, which has swept across Southeast Asia with little U.S. pushback. Police, made untouchable by autocrats, are colluding with crime rackets at the expense of everyday people. Meanwhile, an ascendent China is stitching together the region with concrete and steel — building highways, ports and rail lines that help smugglers move people and drugs across choppy terrain.
Hello, Shadowlands is a journey from Myanmar’s anarchic hills to the swamplands of Vietnam, from the Thai-Malaysia borderlands to the back alleys of Manila, and to other landscapes where crime syndicates thrive. Among them: a methamphetamine empire churning out more speed pills each year than Starbucks sells coffee orders worldwide.
With “somber elegance … avoiding both sensationalism and moralizing,” (Lawrence Osborne), the book explores the lives of people caught up in this underworld. They are often pit against one another: jihadis against brothel workers, pet thieves against vigilantes and drug militias against Christian vice squads.
Bangkok-based journalist Patrick Winn’s “sensitive and incisive” approach (Buzzfeed) subverts the true crime genre, which delights in deranged minds. Winn instead finds that criminals are rational actors operating in extreme circumstance. Also uncovered are the hidden forces have swept trouble into their lives — including past misdeeds of American and European empires still rippling forward through time.
Hello, Shadowlands is essential to understanding Southeast Asia in the 21st-century. Says Ioan Grillo, author of El Narco: “Anyone who wants to make sense of the dark side of modern global capitalism needs to read it."
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR HELLO, SHADOWLANDS:
"Brilliantly crafted and thrilling to read. This is a page turner with soul — an evocative tour through places that are too often ignored." — Tom Vitale, director of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN
"Hello, Shadowlands is a sweeping work of investigative journalism that reads like a thriller you can't put down. Winn's reporting on the men and women who run the region's underworld is both sensitive and incisive. It is a quintessential read for anyone who wants to understand the dark side of Southeast Asia's economic gains." —Megha Rajagopalan, China bureau chief, BuzzFeed News
"Avoiding both sensationalism and moralizing, Patrick Winn takes his reader with somber elegance into Southeast Asia's criminal underworld - and from more interesting perspectives than the usual drug dealers and traffickers. Here is a world as rich, contradictory and strange as any that one could think of." — Lawrence Osborne, author of Beautiful Animals and Bangkok Days
"In a gripping narrative, Patrick Winn takes the reader on first-hand tour of Southeast Asia's underworld ... Through vivid character portraits, Winn offers the reader an intimate, indelible portrait of a major world region in the throes of serious social change." — Prof. Alfred W. McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade
"Patrick Winn writes in a vibrant, readable style ... His vivid descriptions take you deep into surreal and at times heartbreaking worlds but he also steps away to give wider meaning to these tales and their place in the economic and political systems. Anyone who wants to make sense of the dark side of modern global capitalism needs to read it." — Ioan Grillo, author of El Narco and Gangster Warlords
"These shores were once among the world’s most coveted. For more than a millennium, waves of outsiders — from Hindu conquerors to rapacious Dutch colonists — lusted after the paradisiacal beauty of Java. But today, any seafarer arriving on this beach will find a saltwater garbage dump.
How terrifying. Not just for this village but for every human on the planet. The ocean and its creatures are now awash in chemicals oozed by plastic — and it’s seeping into human bodies from Bali to Boston."
"For Fatima, a 13-year-old girl from Myanmar’s western marshlands, the new year began with a grueling escape. She spent the first days of 2017 on the run, slogging through rice fields in the dark.
With each step, cold muck sucked at her ankles. The sky above was dark — just a dim crescent moon and a thousand pinpricks of starlight.
She was grateful for the blackness of night. At least there was no sign of armed border guards on the horizon. No distant flashlight beams scanning for intruders in the fields."
"The world is filled with boys and girls who lose their childhoods to hard labor. That children slave away in Congo mines or stitch blouses in Bangladesh is known to everyone who follows the news.
But in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly titled Burma, child labor is not a minor social blight. It is a pillar of the economy.
Child labor in Myanmar looks a lot like child labor in the United States circa the Industrial Revolution. The kids in South Okkalapa resemble children in those sepia-hued photos shot in industrial America’s factories and farms: bare feet, smudged faces, weary eyes."
"There was a time when the most fearsome sound in warfare was not the crack of a rifle or the eerie hum of a drone. It was the shriek of an elephant, tusks slick with blood, skulls crunching underfoot.
War elephants tend to conjure up Iron Age battles, those archaic campaigns in which hordes dismembered other hordes with arrows and blades. They were exotic cavalry for long-dead empires: Carthage and Macedon, the Mughals and the Khmer.
But there is one corner of the planet — and only one — where war elephants persist into the 21st century."