EXCLUSIVE: Alfred A. Knopf has firmed plans for a June 23 publication date for The Cartel, the title author Don Winslow has chosen for the sequel novel to his seminal 2005 drug war epic The Power Of The Dog. The sequel novel is the first one edited by Sonny Mehta since he won back Winslow from S&S; it was Mehta who edited The Power Of The Dog and The Winter Of Frankie Machine.

Image (1) donwinslow__120927153724.jpg for post 343957Winslow has had some of his novels adapted into movies — the Oliver Stone-directed Savages  the most recent — but he has always declined big-money option offers on The Power Of The Dog. Now, he and his Savages co-writer and exec producer Shane Salerno have grand plans to set both books up and tell a two-film epic story of the futility of the drug war that spans 45 years and focuses on two mortal enemies.

The good guy is Art Keller, a Vietnam vet-turned DEA agent assigned in Mexico at the start of Nixon’s war on drugs. On the other side is Adan Barrera, head of El Federacion, the world’s most powerful drug cartel and the man who brutally murdered Keller’s partner. That means two strong roles for actors who’ll be aged up as the story winds around to the present.

The script for the first installment has been in the works for some time. It’s been co-written by Salerno and Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, the latter two of whom scripted the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the Oscar-nommed A Royal Affair. The movie adaptation was delayed when Salerno accepted the job of co-writing Avatar 4 with James Cameron. Winslow tells me that Salerno has completed a script-ment for the sequel and that he and Salerno will have the sequel script ready by summer. The whole package, two scripts, will be shopped by CAA this summer under the title The Cartel; their plan is to release the first film fall of 2016 and the second two years later.

Both Winslow and Salerno are repped by CAA and The Story Factory.