Three people collide over cocaine.
Impacted by the recession, twenty-four-year-old artist Gina McKenna is down to her last few dollars and days away from living in her car when a successful businessman buys a painting and commissions another. As their relationship evolves, she’s seduced by his charm and mesmerized by his luxurious lifestyle until she discovers he’s a drug kingpin. Her world turns upside down, and she struggles to survive vicious brutality.
Miguel Lopez is a cocaine supplier with a weightlifter’s physique and “the rules do not apply to me” attitude. Maniacal and ruthless, he has no qualms about killing anyone who interferes with his distribution network, including Gina.
Dedicated to eradicating illegal drugs, DEA Special Agent Bobby Garcia spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars working undercover to buy his way up the dealer chain to identify the moneyman. When his fourteen-year-old daughter overdoses on cocaine, he traces the blow to Lopez. As Bobby's mission becomes personal, he makes emotional decisions, which negatively impact civilians and his job. Unable to let go, he risks his career to orchestrate the biggest drug sting in Southern California. What happens isn’t what he expected.
When a deputy district attorney meets Gina at a party, he is smitten. As his attraction grows, so does Gina’s involvement with the DEA’s case, of which he is the designated prosecutor. Mindful of his professional ethics, he tries to stifle his feelings.
Sex and violence permeate the twists and turns of this cautionary tale about choosing one’s friends well.
One of the first assignments I received in Professor Louella Nelson’s Beginning Novel Writing Class was to identify the key plot points. The majority of the attendees had a novel they were writing; I didn’t. While driving home, the plot came to me. As the story evolved, so did my research.
Almost all the scenes are based on actual events: the airplane scene is patterned after an article in the Los Angeles Times, which described a similar situation. The experiences of two women who’d spent time in the Orange County Jail are reflected in the jail scenes. (Yes, stuff like that really happens.) A Lt. in Narcotics and a retired DEA Agent shared their expertise and helped me understand the current laws and how much latitude they did or didn’t have in combating the war on drugs. Two artists taught me about plein air painting, and shared their challenges in making a living selling art. Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens facilitated a tour of the Orange County Jail, bought lunch, and was very gracious answering my questions. Most influential of all was retired Superior Court Judge James Gray, who convinced me that drugs should be legalized, and he formed the basis for Busted’s prosecutor’s philosophy.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve included a list of the books that I found most educational.
I hope you enjoy reading Busted as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.
Recommended Nonfiction Reading
Gray, Judge James P. Why Our Drug Laws Have FAILED and What We Can Do About It. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001. Print.
Gray, Mike. Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out. Taylor and Francis Group, 2013. Print.
Rempel, William C. At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel. Random House, 2011.
For writers: Wheat, Carolyn. How to Write KILLER Fiction. Santa Barbara, California: John Daniel and Company, 2003. Print.
Recommended Fiction Reading
Don Winslow’s books:
- The Power of the Dog, 2006.
- Savages, 2011.
- The Kings of Cool, 2013.
- The Cartel, 2016.
“Busted, by Michele Khoury, is a well-written and exceedingly heartfelt debut novel about cocaine and its abuse. What separates Khoury’s work from other similarly-themed volumes are found in her characters’ thoughts and exploits when it comes to legalization. Never a simple issue, Khoury’s characters are human and conceived as though the author is personally familiar with each. As such, the answers to the related, difficult, and interconnected journeys of her three main characters will have readers questioning their own biases. This is a brave work, part ‘Traffic,’ part ‘Magnolia,’ all original. Kudos to this author for a gutsy, profound effort. Busted heralds the arrival of a bold new voice. ”
Author, The Chronicles of Ara