I can’t say I enjoyed this book on current Central American life, mainly because it seemed to fixate on the violence end of things. According to Martinez, there are several serious Narco states in this region that are so consumed with criminal activity that living anywhere along its major transportation routes poses an ever present risk to personal security. His account of life in a typical Guatemalan or El Salvadoran city or village paints a very dismal picture of life in the thrall of weak civic leadership, corrupt cops and drug gangs. By going into these backwater places like La Democracia, Martinez discovered how much this highly impoverished area – the scene of violent upheaval over the last four decades – depends on drug and human trafficking as the main source of commerce. Billions of dollars of cocaine and marijuana pass through these countries on its way to feed the habits of 22 million American addicts. The poor peasants and town residents, many of whom Martinez interviewed in this two-year investigation, have become the ‘mules’ in this trade that has turned out to be a vicious war zone between rival gangs. Thousands die in the most horrible ways as gangs attempt to cut in on each other’s turf. One of the people involved in this terrible narrative is a forensic pathologist tasked with locating and identifying the headless and mutilated bodies of victims stuffed down wells by the thousands. In this atmosphere of expanding terror, how does one possibly survive? The answer is simple: shut-up or move. The latter choice leads to the spawning of the deadly Coyote culture of human trafficking, where hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants are moved north to the US-Mexico border, often going through the dangerous territory of the Los Zenitos. Every criminal organization along the way wants their cut but offer no guarantee of safety for the little guy desperately trying to escape the horrors of life back home. If deals are broken, these unfortunate refugees pay the ultimate price after being exploited to the nth degree. In all fairness, national prosecutors are going after these perps with mixed results. There just doesn’t seem to be the manpower or appetite to round up sufficient evidence to overcome the influence of corrupt judges and police chiefs, some of whom the author names. In the bigger cities, civic authorities literally make pacts with the devil in order to maintain a semblance of stability. Absent from this book is any real discussion of how to resolve this crisis that has engulfed a good part of the Americas, short of continuing the war on drugs which hasn’t worked till now. Other than the fact that this very complex story is disturbing and lurid, I found its reading to be fascinating and exploratory. Before reading “History of Violence”, I was not very aware of how pervasive and violent the drug trade is in this part of the globe. If what Martinez says is even remotely true, then its throughput to immigration issues arising during this current American election is very relevant. As long as political instability reigns supreme in Central America, as a result of the uninterrupted movement of three main commodities – narcotics, guns, and refugees – the US will continue to face their dangerous spill-over effects across its southern borders. As one who may be interested in travelling in this neck of the woods in the near future, this book does serve as a bit of a travelogue as it takes the reader into the rural outreaches where law-and-order is in short supply. Martinez is to be commended for his courage in seeking the truth under very harrowing circumstances in very primitive settings where the law of the jungle seems to reign supreme. Life, here, is not worth a spit if it happens to get in the way of evil men.