Book discussion on drug trafficking ends library lecture series

Mitchell Grogg

A talk on drug trafficking brought its own traffic to Barnes and Noble Thursday night.

It was the final lecture in the Friends of WKU Libraries’ “Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names” series. Thursday’s book of choice was “Bribes, Bullets, and Intimidation: Drug Trafficking and the Law in Central America.”

The lecture was by the book’s husband and wife team of authors, Michael Fowler and Julie Bunck, who both serve on the faculty of the University of Louisville.

“I was on a trip to Belize in 1986 and I was deep in the jungles of Belize and coming out of a cave, and I was suddenly surrounded by a group of armed men,” Fowler said. “And that got me interested in what was happening in the jungles of Central America.”

What was happening in the jungles of Central America was a great deal of drug transportation, without, the speakers noted, a great deal of consumption of the drugs in many of the countries the drugs passed through.

Their book explored how the drugs moved, and how cartels and other drug traders used the varied geography of Central America to traffic illicit drugs. They called this work bridge country analysis.

Fowler’s portion of the lecture focused on former drug kingpin Jose Castrillon — who had a hand in narcotics networks in several countries. Bunck’s portion focused more on the geography of the Central American countries.

The focus they took in the lecture, however, was not indicative of the research they had performed, as they said in a previous speech on the book, they had switched the topic areas.

Brian Coutts, head of the Department of Library Public Services, felt this event struck students’ interests.

“It’s a pretty exciting topic,” he said.

He said the series tends to cover some of every part of the world, but that some years certain areas receive more coverage than others.

“This year was particularly heavy on Latin America,” he said. “We did three.”

Melbourne, Fla. sophomore Nicholette Sartori listened to the lecture and was surprised at the amount of money that went into the drug trade.

“I had no idea it’d be like, billions and billions of dollars,” she said.

She also enjoyed the speech.

“It was really interesting,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I learned a lot and drug trafficking seems really interesting.”

For Fowler, the people were one of the most interesting parts of his research.

“The most fascinating aspect was the people involved,” he said. “I called them in the lecture the ‘cast of characters.’”

Another potentially interesting aspect of the work, and one brought up during the question and answer session that followed the lecture, was working with one’s spouse.

“Unnerving, maddening, irritating,” said Brunck with a laugh. “We did the research very well together. It was great fun. Writing, though, is not very fun.”

Fowler finished his wife’s sending, saying that despite that, he thought the end product was better.

“And it would be hard to find a co-author who would dedicate this amount of time to a project like this,” he said.

They said they spent around two decades on and off on the research for the book.