Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Infiltrators by Philip Etienne and Martin Maynard

Apologies for the poor quality of the cover jpg!

Philip Etienne and Martin Maynard are two of London's most successful villains. They specialize mainly in drugs, trading huge amounts of cocaine, ecstasy, crack and cannabis. They also deal in guns, stolen cars, credit cards and pretty much anything else that comes their way.

And business is booming; crime does pay. Martin drives a brand-new top-of-the-range BMW, Philip a slick Mercedes. When they hit town their wallets are fat with banknotes. If a deal looks good they can lay their hands on hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash at a moment's notice.

They can be contacted only through word-of-mouth recommendation. Only too aware that you can never be sure who's listening in, they never brag about their exploits. Tough, streetwise, professional and absolutely fearless, they're the kind of men other crooks feel comfortable dealing with. And that's just the idea, because Philip and Martin are undercover police officers. Revealed for the first time, The Infiltrators is the breathtaking story of Scotland Yard's covert operations from the two men in the front line. It's an intense, unpredictable world of gangsters, drug dealers, contract killers and gun runners where any mistake can have lethal consequences. We're lucky they're the good guys ...

I've had a battered copy of The Infiltrators sitting on my shelf for ages now and I decided to give it a read as it is non-fiction and I find the whole undercover thing very interesting. I did not expect to lie on the couch all of Saturday, battling a sore head, utterly immersed in their story.

In reading the Infiltrators, I found an incredibly interesting story of two regular guys working for the police, living normal lives as and when they can, but also doing very scary and dangerous things as they belonged part time to this group of undercover police that worked all across the UK.

The write-up above make these guys sound like Don Johnson in Miami Vice.  Glitz and glam - which their lives in reality are not.

I give great credit to the writer they worked with to tell their story! The narrative flows well and as we switch from Martin to Philip's stories throughout the novel, we catch a glimpse of exactly how much goes on in and around us that we are blissfully unaware of as everyday public.  The stories, as they are told, are concise and to the point.  There is a chance for both Martin and Philip to convey their thoughts and feelings but these are never glamorised or dumbed down.  We are at all times fully aware how much these guys are putting on the line.

I loved The Infiltrators.  It has really opened my eyes to a completely different world that is happening right next door to my quiet suburban life. Not everything is as it seems - the wide-boy in his flash motor and loud pumping music may be someone far different to whom I take him to be.

The "boys" as I now refer to Martin and Philip in my mind, take us through how they started out at first, deciding to become police officers and how things worked for them to join the specialist undercover team.  Admittedly some things were glossed over and not mentioned in detail, such as the actual training that goes in to making an undercover operative.  Yes, some of it got mentioned, tantalisingly so, but I am far happier to not know all of it, because I do like some mystery and "what-if."  We are taken through some of the cases they worked, some in great detail, other only mentioned in passing. 

The book is far more interesting and riveting than any episode on TV of cops under cover or movie I have ever watched.  I suppose it is because I know it is real and that these guys do this crazy job, not for the fame and glory, but because they want to make the UK a better place, and in doing so they put their lives on the line.  I found out far more about how the Yardies work and drugs and how to fold dirty money than I anticipated, how to drop offs and how to refrain from being an agent provocateur. It is genuinely fascinating as it also doesn't shy away from how living double lives like this take its toll on the boys' respective families as well as psychologically.  It is a thoughtful, honest account of two guys' going into crazy situations and praying that nothing goes awry.  I was very much aware of how tense I became in certain places whilst reading it, having to share some scenes with Mark, by reading it out loud.  That does not happen to me very often.

I didn't realise this before I started reading The Infiltrators, but it won the CWA Non-Fiction award back in 2001.  I mean, that says it all. I did some more rooting around and also found this extract here from The Guardian.  I highly recommend The Infiltrators as one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a very long while.

1 comment:

Emma Book Angel said...

Would it be suitable for t he school library. I think a few of t he boys would be really interested in it but I have to be careful about content.