They say all good things must come to an end, and in my case that includes my initial enthusiasm for author Kyle Mills. I really enjoyed Smoke Screen, and was looking forward to see if his other work was as good. In short, no it is not. I’m plugging my way through Sphere of Influence, but the thick and clumsy stereotypes he throws out, show me that he simply did not do his homework, and the results are disappointing at best.
Mills made three glaring errors early in the book, and they are serious enough that the sense of verisimilitude is lost, frankly blown to pieces. On the one hand, Mils immediately begins by making the CIA bad guys, soulless mercenaries out for money and personal power at all cost. They are also cast as stupid thugs who enjoy violence and do not think through the implications of their actions, morally or pragmatically. Also, Mills casts his hero as a man with a degree in History, yet has done no apparent work to endow his character with even a rudimentary understanding of the major historical events and cultural imperatives of the nations involved in his story. And finally, Mills relies on a decades-obsolete image of Organized Crime dominated by the Sicilian/Italian Mafia, displaying an incredible (literally unbelievable) series of actions and events which would never occur in a real-world 21st-Century environment. All in all, the book is the work which reminds me of a high school ‘D’ student, hoping no one will pay attention to his lack of scholarship and slipshod characterization. I almost feel like re-writing his book myself, so I can read the plot without cringing at so many amateurish errors.
The book prompted me, however, to consider the real nature of crime we know today. Things are both better and worse, as we all know from experience. Violent crime in America is diminishing, and a better feeling of security is present in most people’s lives, for a number of reasons. But looking deeper, I still see a grave threat to our nation, and in many First-World countries, driven by a local menace: Organized Crime, specifically gangs.
In Mill’s laughably simplistic book, the Mafia remains the biggest threat to the citizens of the United States, so far as crime is concerned. And to Mills, ‘Mafia’ means a fat Italian in a silk suit, “The Godfather” without any depth of character. The Sicilian/Italian “Cosa Nostra” remains alive, true, but hardly what it used to be, for three main reasons. First, the FBI has made it a major goal to slice and dice LCN whenever and wherever they can, and all the prosecutions are taking their toll. Second, many LCN bosses began to drive their money into “legitimate” businesses when they could, so that a generation later, the crime going on is less blue-collar (such as hijacking trucks, robbery, drugs, etc.) and more white-collar, especially graft in connection with political officials. And third, rivals have turned on LCN to seize turf and plum opportunities for themselves, and these rivals have grabbed my attention.
Essentially, Organized Crime (OC) in the US has evolved into 4 variant types:
1. “Classic” OC, involving drugs, prostitution, gambling, the usual vices
2. “New Age” OC, including copyright and patent theft, technology robbery and Internet fraud
3. Tiered OC operations, with particular crimes contracted to other OC gangs to hinder investigation and prosecution, leading to highly specialized groups not easily connected to their patrons
4. Youth recruiting movements in 1st-World nations
Major OC gangs and organizations have learned from FBI prosecutions to hide their character and details even from their own memberships, and are made up of major organizations of a variety of sub-groups, including Italian Organized Crime, Eurasian Organized Crime , Asian/African Organized Crime, Central American Gangs, the Russian 'Mafiya', Japanese Yakuza, Jamaican 'Kingfish', Chinese Triads (also here) , Motorcycle Gangs, and American “Street” Gangs.
The good news is, we are winning the war on drugs, prostitution, gambling, and illegal alien smuggling, albeit slowly. The bad news is, the enemy is growing smarter and more diversified, and has targeted new prey.
The US government has not been idle, however. A number of community initiatives are underway (here, here, here, and here, for example), and a number of agencies work hard to provide resources to cross-reference international criminal activity (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), keyed to the types of activity known to be performed by OC or of likely interest to OC. The threat, however, is real and enduring.
Some focus only an Al Qaeda and similar groups, but the war against Terrorism includes the War on Organized Crime.