Writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. But, even so, there are a lot good writers. They fill a page with good, crisp sentences filled with meaningful words and proper punctuation. They have a good grasp of the language and are generally smart people. What isn't so easy is making the eventual reader want to go to the next page. And the next. And the next. This is what separates authors from writers.
I only finish about 30% of the books I start reading these days. If I'm not all in by about page 40 I stop and try another. Of course I keep the discarded book optimistically thinking I'll go back to it later - but I never do. My garage is filled with these books that I always promise my wife I'm taking to Goodwill. She's getting a little pissed now.
So I picked up a copy of Wheels Up written by Jeanine Kitchel (full disclosure - I have known Jeanine for years and consider her a friend). Jeanine lived for years in Mexico and owned a bookstore in Puerto Morelos with her husband, Paul. She knows Mexico, the good and the bad, and it shows throughout her story. And what a fun story it is, featuring protagonist Layla Navarro, the somewhat reluctant and conflicted head of Mexico's premier drug cartel since her uncle, the real boss, is in the slammer. Layla, despite good intentions, gets into a bad situation and the reader gets to come along for a roller-coaster ride, action filled with a cast of characters Fellini would admire.
Unlike many books on Mexico, Jeanine's book always sounds true to life. She "gets" the country and the people and it shows all the way through. Despite the natural, colorful beauty of Mexico, much of the country reflects shades of grey, with pragmatism a major driver. Who are the bad guys and who are the good? It is often hard to tell.
I highly recommend Wheels Up, available electronically and in hard copy. You will want to turn every page.
When her notorious drug lord uncle is recaptured, Layla Navarro catapults to the top of Mexico’s most powerful cartel. To expand cartel influence she accepts an offer to move two tons of cocaine from Colombia to Cancun by jet. Along for the ride are her abusive bodyguard/lover, the laidback Canadian pot grower who set up the deal, and a coke-addicted Vietnam vet. The deal takes a bad turn during a stopover in Guatemala when Layla unexpectedly uncovers a sex-trafficking ring. Plagued by self-doubt, she must navigate the minefield of Mexican machismo, outsmart government officials and fight off gangsters. Against a backdrop of lush tropical settings, Layla plots to succeed, wreak vengeance, and find herself—not to mention stay alive.
About the Author
Jeanine Kitchel's ongoing love of Mexico led her to the Yucatan in 1983, and slightly more than a decade later, she left San Francisco for a relaxed lifestyle in Puerto Morelos, a fishing village on the Quintana Roo coast. TRAVEL WRITER Kitchel writes about Mexico, the Maya and the Yucatan. Her Tales from the Yucatan series can be found on oldplaneta.com. She's written for The Miami Herald/Cancun edition, El Universal/Mexico City, The News/Mexico City, The Herald/Mexico City, Baja Times, The Mexico Files, Sac-Be, and Fodor's Travel Guide: Cancun/Riviera Maya. She has contributed to websites mexicopremiere, belize.com, escapeartist.com, mexico-insights, knowmexico, and yucatanliving.com. WHERE THE SKY IS BORN Her first book, a travel memoir, Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya, tells the adventure of dream becoming reality when she and her husband left Silicon Valley jobs to pursue the dream of living in Mexico. She shares her dreams and heartaches, and tells how they coped with buying land, building a house and retiring in a foreign country. MAYA 2012 REVEALED Maya 2012 Revealed: Demystifying the Prophecy, takes a realistic look at the 2012 end date debate that surrounded the Maya calendar. As a journalist, author and former expat bookstore owner in Maya Mexico, Kitchel details who the Maya are, their calendars, breaking the code, the Maya night sky, 2012ology, the collapse, and the prophecy as seen by Maya elders. CARTEL TRILOGY/WHEELS UP: A NOVEL OF DRUGS, CARTELS AND SURVIVAL Kitchel's first novel, Wheels Up, will publish spring 2018. Once again, Mexico sits center stage. Her Latina protagonist, Layla Santos, catapults to the top of Mexico's most poweful cartel when her notorious drug lord uncle is recaptured and imprisoned. Layla struggles to survive in one of the cruelest institutions the world has ever seen. It's a story of triumph against all odds and one of personal transformation as she navigates her way through the murky world she must learn to inhabit. Her website-jeaninekitchel.com-has updates on her writing and her blog, jeaninekitchel.blogspot.com/ has stories about the Maya world - titled Maya Musings.