The story of drug gangs in the Americas is one that stretches from the favelas of Brazil to the remote mountains of Mexico to U.S. towns and cities.
And the top shot-callers have taken on the personas of savvy CEO businessmen, mythical folk heroes and brutal crime lords.
"They often have this incredible charisma," said Ioan Grillo, whose new book, Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America, chronicles the complex web of narcotraffickers. "To be a leader of many other killers, you have to have a natural leadership."
That leadership often relies on carefully-cultivated reputations made through violence and media – including telenovelas, music, even video games.
"These people have this amazing infamy, this notoriety which turns them into these kinds of rockstars, but at the same time they also have this extremely violent side," said Grillo.
The violence spills into U.S. communities in the form of crime and forced migration and is fed by a multi-billion dollar illicit drug market, said Grillo.
"While right now the violence is being kept outside U.S. borders, that may not always be the case," he said.
What: Author Ioan Grillo discussing his book, Gangster Warlords
When: Wednesday, January 27, 7:00pm
Where: Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101
Read an excerpt from Grillo's book, Gangster Warlords.