Hello, Shadowlands by Patrick Winn
|Hello, Shadowlands by Patrick Winn|
|Category: True Crime|
|Reviewer: Alex Merrick|
|Summary: Winn dives head first into the criminal underworld of his newfound home: Southeast Asia. He discovers an assortment of rogue characters and illegal activities in the murky underworld. However, he always finds the humanity glistening not far beneath.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: June 2018|
|Publisher: Icon Books Ltd.|
|External links: Author's website|
Hello, Shadowlands chronicles a booming crime wave in South East Asia. It illuminates everything from the meth industry in Myanmar to the abortion pill black market in the Philippines using both Winn's personal accounts and historical context. It is devastating to imagine the very real human lives that are swept up in this cloud of refuse, and how the West helped create it and is doing nothing to prevent it.
Winn writes with such love for these places. Some passages are akin to a travelogue. …in coastal Malaysia, the air is the same as Thailand: sizzling hot and lightly scented with sea breeze. The atmosphere, however, is entirely different. Winn's adoration of these countries shines through so it is even more heart breaking when he describes the corruption and deaths that are prevalent in Southeast Asia.
It is tough to separate a narrative's reading from its author. I believe, especially for non-fiction, that it is important to understand the author and their background. Patrick Winn is an award winning American journalist who covers crime in Southeast Asia. He has lived in Bangkok since 2008. Winn feels passionately about Southeast Asia as it is his adopted home. His writing and opinions are therefore coloured with both a Western upbringing but one that is influenced and affected by his new home. The worlds he visits never appear completely foreign to him, neither do the people. This allows the reader to become fully invested in their stories and lives and builds an emotional attachment.
Winn writes about a variety of different countries in the region, including Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam. The casual reader will not know much about these places nor the history behind their formation. Winn provides a great historical background into all these places and the one thing that is evident throughout: the West's influence has affected these countries in appalling ways. It is the back bone of Hello, Shadowlands, of all the death, destruction and abject poverty. The West arrived wearing the mask of liberators. Winn provides a brilliant quote from General Shafter remarking on the Philippine-American War (1899 – 1902): It may be necessary to kill half the Filipinos in order that the remaining half of the population may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords. Quotes like this illustrate Winn's own opinions about his forefather's history and influence in Southeast Asia. It shows how, as a Western writer, it is difficult for him to write in a purely journalistic form. The current of guilt comes to a head in the final chapter, which is set in Vietnam. It could be argued that it is one of the most blighted areas by the American military-industrial complex. Winn meets with a Vietnamese veteran who has become a vigilante against dog kidnappings. After their meeting, it comes tumbling out: an expression of grief that my country brought war into his life. It is Winn's admission of guilt for his country that is the cathartic moment in this book. This provides catharsis after human stories about death, corruption and neglect within which the West's involvement has lingered like the smoke from a napalm blaze burning through the land.
Winn's Hello, Shadowlands is an affecting and informative book. It sheds light on little known organized crime such as the black market abortion pills in the Philippines, where women are arrested and thrown in jail for even using contraception. Winn manages to balance a concise overview of the situation with harrowing human stories. He captures the humanity behind the crimes. These are not faceless regimes or crime syndicates; these are real people who are just trying to survive and protect themselves and their families. This book provokes an emotional reaction. Is it too much to ask that the powers that be feel the same?
If you enjoyed this work, I recommend Criminal Capital: How the Finance Industry Facilitates Crime by Stephen Platt to find out more about how capitalism funds crime.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hello, Shadowlands by Patrick Winn at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Hello, Shadowlands by Patrick Winn at Amazon.com.
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