Outlaws Inc.: Under the Radar and on the Black Market with the World's Most Dangerous Smugglers

Outlaws Inc.: Under the Radar and on the Black Market with the World's Most Dangerous Smugglers

4.2 8
by Matt Potter

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Espionage, smuggling, and secret ransoms are at the center of this nonfiction thriller about the outlaws who go where our government won't.See more details below


Espionage, smuggling, and secret ransoms are at the center of this nonfiction thriller about the outlaws who go where our government won't.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of globalization's seamier corners—the shadowy network of Russian aviators flying rattletrap cargo planes full of contraband to the world's hellholes—is poked with a stick in this colorful exposé-cum-adventure story. BBC correspondent Power flies along with "Mickey" and his crew of Soviet Air Force vets in their Ilyushin-76 transport plane, a model prized for its secret cargo holds that customs officials never check. The crew and their ilk go everywhere there's money to be made, legal or not: they transport building supplies, generators, and heroin in Afghanistan, humanitarian aid and blood diamonds in Africa, cocaine in Latin America, and arms almost everywhere. It's a story rife with ironies—the same flight, the author notes, could carry U.N. food for refugees and Kalashnikovs for the militias who destroyed their homes—which Potter traces upward to the hypocrisies of financiers and governments. But the book's heart is his vivid, atmospheric reportage on the hungover flyboys who subject their planes—held together more with duct tape than rivets—to potholed airstrips, crazed aerobatics, and ground fire. Through the dissolute romanticism peeks an arresting glimpse of an airborne proletariat desperate for a risky paycheck. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Aug.)
Library Journal
When communism collapses, some Russian military men buy a decommissioned Soviet plane for mere kopeks, then launch a shipping business. Soon they're crisscrossing borders with everything from illegal weapons to emergency aid, working for the Taliban, the U.S. government, and various global corporations. When demand slows, they move their operations to Africa. Okay, 0 true. Widely published British journalist Potter traveled with these risk-takers for a time so that he could tell their story. This should be great narrative nonfiction reading.
Kirkus Reviews

Engrossing examination of the role of ex-Soviet air crews in post–Cold War smuggling and global instability.

London-based BBC Radio reporter Potter deftly summarizes the impact of the Soviet military's sudden dissolution, which left a stockpile of useful military equipment at the disposal of black markets. One of the most significant was the Il76, "one of the biggest planes on the planet." Ever since, these aging yet rugged planes, and the men trained to fly them, have been instrumental in facilitating both globalization of capital and brutal discord, particularly via their unique capacity for smuggling. His intermittent travels with "Mickey" and crew, veterans of the Soviets' Afghan war, form the book's overall structure. In Potter's opinion, these hapless and evasive yet stoic and skilled aviators provide a ready metaphor for what happened to the world geopolitically after the USSR's dissolution—as Mickey puts it, "we flew [an Il-76] down to Kazakhstan and, you might say, rebranded." When faced with sudden privation, these ex–military men began transporting goods ranging from disaster aid and soldiers to drugs, weapons and blood diamonds all over the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. Potter is fascinated by Mickey's shadowy existence, which is both dangerous—there have been numerous suspicious crashes of Russian aircraft—and a key component of the so-called "grey market," in which legitimate entrepreneurs and aid organizations interact with the transnational criminal syndicates that grew with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Potter shadows Mickey's crew through Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Central America, the Congo and Uganda, at once entertained by the exploits and keyed in to their relevance to profound crises. The book reads more like a novel than straight journalism. The personalized narrative is taut and funny; Potter's prose strains, often successfully, to be ornate and haunting in portraying the doomed, absurdist lot of the airmen—though he tends to repeat these tropes.

An exciting yet disturbing look at a dark corner of current geopolitics.

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Bloomsbury USA
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