Dirty Dealing: Drug Smuggling on the Mexican Border and the Assassination of a Federal Judge: An American Parable (Paperback)

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A hell of a story about drugs, corruption and violence, told by a virtuoso. -- Playboy magazine

Dirty Dealing, a true story, chronicles the rise and fall of the house of Chagra. The Chagra brothers of El Paso were pioneers in smuggling drugs across the Mexican border, and were infamous for their fabulous wealth. But in the end Lee Chagra was gunned down, a federal judge was assassinated, Jimmy and Joe Chagra were imprisoned, and Charles Harrelson (actor Woody Harrelson's father) was convicted for the judge's murder.

When Federal Judge John Maximum Wood was shot outside his home in San Antonio, Texas in 1979 -- the first assassination of a federal judge in more than a hundred years -- his death sent waves of shock across the country. The FBI labeled it the crime of the century. Former President Nixon expressed outrage, calling for quick arrest and punishment. But the crime's solution would be anything but fast. Dragging on for years and costing $11.4 million, the investigation turned out to be the largest in recent FBI history, surpassing even that of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Gary Cartwright, senior editor of Texas Monthly and author of several nonfiction bestsellers, details the full history of the events leading up to this crime and the trials that followed in Dirty Dealing. This reprint from Cinco Puntos Press includes a new afterword by the author. Complete with shady maneuverings on the part of the federal government and an outcome that Kirkus Reviews has called straight from Oz, Dirty Dealing is one of the richest and most fascinating of all true crime stories.

From the Author, Gary Cartwright:

I don't claim much of a literary background. The town where I grew up (Arlington, Texas) had a tiny library above the fire station. The first writer who truly impressed me and caused me to wonder if there was something out there for me was Hemingway. For a long time I tried to emulate his clean, crisp style and feeling for life and death. I was going pretty well with Hemingway when I got sidetracked by Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, at which time I lapsed into my Purple Period. Nelson Algren's Walk on the Wildside -- I think I read some Conrad about the same time -- got me out of the stench of lyrical, overripe nonsense and back in the dust where I belonged. Somewhere in there I read Robert Stone's A Hall of Mirrors, and later Dog Soldiers, and began to understand that a writer's true function was storytelling. Like a lot of writers my age, my head was turned by reading J.D. Salinger, though I didn't understand him. I came to prefer William Goldman, who wrote more to my level and with a skill I could appreciate and borrow from. I know it's popular in literary circles to dismiss Goldman as a hack-gone-Hollywood, but I wish I had his gift as a storyteller. In recent years I have fallen in love with such mystery writers as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and John LeCarr . There is something cynical and laconic in the way these writers weave a story, as though to say life really has no resolution, it's just one damn thing after another, but worthwhile if it's done right.Two books that influenced my own works were David Storey's This Sporting Life, which I read shortly before beginning my football novel The Hundred Yard War, and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, which was the inspiration for my two latest books, Blood Will Tell and Dirty Dealing. I am fascinated by this genre and have come to recognize that life imitating art is every bit as literate as art imitating life. In a way I can't quite explain, Dirty Dealing was influenced, too, by John Reed's Insurgent Mexico. Reed got across a feeling for how the isolation of desert wastelands gives both a meaning and a meaninglessness to life, and how codes within cultures are more permanent than laws within nations.

About the Author


Gary Cartwright was an acclaimed reporter, novelist, nonfiction author, and screenwriter. He received a B.A. in journalism and government from Texas Christian University in 1957 and served as a newspaper reporter in Texas for the next decade. Cartwright's first book, a football novel entitled The Hundred Yard War, was published in 1967. His work appeared in The Texas Observer, Esquire, Saturday Review, Rolling Stone, and especially Texas Monthly, a magazine with which he was associated from its inception. A collection of his Texas Monthly articles can be found in Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter, and his true-crime books Blood Will Tell and Dirty Dealing both began as articles for the magazine. He received many honors for his writing, including the Texas Institute of Letters's Stanley Walker Award and the Press Club of Dallas Katie Award. Cartwright passed away in 2017 at the age of eighty-two.

Praise For…


"…It makes for good reading. In this Cartwright classic, the feds run amok in search for evil-doers, a federal judge gets murdered, and a whole mess of other folks get sent off to prison. Meanwhile, the drugs keep coming and nothing changes."—Molly Ivins

"Fast-paced, sure-footed nonfiction that packs all the intensity and dramatic qualities of a good novel.… Journalist Gary Cartwright's diligent research has produced a rich evocation of the lives of the Chagra family... A sharp and often startling disclosure of personal folly and government corruption"—Booklist

"Dirty Dealing, by Gary Cartwright: Dope smuggling, brotherly love, and the assassination of a federal judge, all leading to the biggest investigation in FBI history. Best of all, the Texas Monthly writer makes this true story read like a novel."—GQ Recommends

"Texas Monthly staffer Cartwright knows his territory, and this story of 'greed and fear' and life on the border (in all senses) will hook a wide audience"—Kirkus Reviews

"Not an uplifting story. But it does show that when a government has $11.4 million to spend on a case, and isn't finicky about its methods, or about releasing criminals to jail the innocent, it can put people behind bars. Cartwright has carefully researched his story and tells it well."—Newsweek

"Cartwright's undisguised distaste for certain law officials and agencies is sure to irk some readers; however, his ultimate ability to tell a good story should make Dirty Dealing palatable to even the most stalwart law-and-order types." —Amazon.com, Tjames Madison

"A hell of a story about drugs, corruption and violence, told by a virtuoso."—Playboy

Product Details
ISBN: 9781933693897
ISBN-10: 1933693894
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Publication Date: November 9th, 2010
Pages: 400
Language: English