EXCLUSIVE: FX Networks has landed the rights to turn Don Winslow’s acclaimed Cartel Trilogy into a TV series. The series will encompass Winslow’s 2005 novel The Power of the Dog, the 2015 followup The Cartel, and the just published conclusion, The Border. Latter book, which The New York Times called “a hybrid of The Godfather and War and Peace,” and “this generation’s defining work of American mass-culture storytelling on the border,” just debuted on the NYT bestseller lists in the number three slot. The deal was made by John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions.
Winslow and Shane Salerno will be Executive Producers. Salerno will co-write the pilot with a writer/showrunner to be set shortly. FX is producing with The Story Factory. Ridley Scott will also serve as an Executive Producer. While Winslow and Salerno will not be day-to-day showrunners, they will be closely involved in shaping and sustaining the series.
The book trilogy spans a 45 year period and follows a DEA agent named Art Keller through America’s long running war on drugs. The through line is a blood feud between the DEA agent and Mexican drug kingpin Adan Berrera. Much like the actual drug war, the books are often shocking in brutality and raw in humanity, portraying Mexican cartel power struggles, narcos and cops on both sides of the border, traffickers and drug mules, lawyers, journalists, junkies, teen hit men, asylum-seeking children and political corruption from Mexico poppy fields to the White House.
The first two books were originally sold to be turned into a feature film by Fox, which committed $6 million in 2015 and had Scott as director. There was too much story to fit into a two hour film and as Fox was coming under the Disney family film fold, an edgy Sons of Anarchy-style series by sister company FX is a strong way to tell the whole sprawling story.
“I have known and respected Shane Salerno and Don Winslow for almost 20 years, and am beyond thrilled to be working with them again on the series adaptation of Don’s magnum opus – the trilogy made up of his three critically beloved and commercially successful novels, Landgraf said. “Don has masterfully woven his intricately detailed research into cartel’s and America’s war on drugs into what is widely regarded as one of the great crime epics of all time. Nothing excites the team at FX more than the daunting challenge of helping great creators make a television show as ambitious and good as the epically acclaimed books on which it will be based.“
Said Salerno and Winslow: “We have long admired the excellence that John Landgraf and his creative team have built and sustained across many years at FX, which makes them the perfect creative partner for us. These books represent over twenty years of our lives and we care deeply about how they are adapted. We are excited to work with John and his team on what we hope will become the definitive television series on this subject matter.”
Winslow’s 2017 bestseller corrupt Gotham cop thriller The Force remains at Fox as a feature that Scott Frank is adapting for Logan helmer James Mangold to direct. Winslow’s novel Satori remains in development at Warner Brothers for producer and star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Landgraf, Winslow, and Salerno first worked together on the 2001 NBC television series UC: Undercover, which Winslow and Salerno co-created and executive produced with Landgraf, when the latter ran Jersey television. Under Landgraf, FX’s recent series dramas have included The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Fargo, Feud and The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
The trilogy has made Winslow an internationally bestselling author, and the former private detective’s voluminous research has made him an outspoken voice in the national debate over border security, the handling of migrant children, the opioid crisis, and the influence of foreign money on the highest levels of U.S. government.
The marks the second recent big ticket book to TV deal for Story Factory, which is also behind the CBS miniseries based on former FBI Director James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty, which has been adapted by Billy Ray, the Captain Phillips scribe who has upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate and Gemini Man.
Winslow’s deal was brokered by CAA and The Story Factory; Salerno’s deal was negotiated by CAA and Robert Offer and Shelby Weiser of Sloane, Offer, Weber, Dern.