Ioan Grillo on Books and Writing

Ioan Grillo is a journalist and writer based in Mexico City, Mexico.

This interview has been edited lightly.

Your book "Gangster Warlords" was published earlier this year. Would you tell us a little bit about it?

"Gangster Warlords" is about the rise of drug cartels and hyperviolent gangs across Latin America and the Caribbean. It is about the move from the Cold War that gripped the continent in the twentieth century to the crime wars of today, that are both between these cartels and with the security forces fighting them. It is based on interviews with members of these crime groups, from gunmen to cell leaders to some who command more than a thousand people. It is a search for solutions to this dense problem that has made Latin America one of the most violent regions on the planet.

In terms of the feedback you've gotten, are there any particular comments or reviews that stand out?

I am very happy with the reviews from press in the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil and other places. I was particularly happy for the book to be reviewed in The New York Times, by Misha Glenny.

How long did it take to write? Do you have a writing routine?

"Gangster Warlords" took about three years to report, write and edit. It also drew on material I had gathered reporting on Latin America since 2001. I like to report as much as possible before writing and then work about 2,000 words per day. However, I have written both my books while I have also continued doing journalism, which can be a tough juggling act.

Do you have any literary influences?

In terms of nonfiction writers, I think the British author Jon Ronson, who wrote "The Psychopath Test" among others, is one of the best out there. I like the way he writes simply and effectively and grips the reader. For a more mellow and perhaps deeper style, I also love the American writer Adam Hochschild, author of "King Leopold's Ghost."

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I came to writing books through doing journalism, which is a good route for nonfiction, as it gets you writing and publishing all the time. In terms of journalism, I would advise getting out in the field as much as possible and not relying too much on what you find online.

Are you an avid reader? What do you read for fun?

Sure, I am an avid reader, and coffee drinker. As well as reading nonfiction, some of my favorite novelists include James Ellroy (my favorite: "White Jazz"), Irvine Welsh ("Marabou Stork Nightmares"), Richard Price ("The Whites") and Charles Bukowski ("Ham on Rye"). I also read plenty of older books from George Orwell to Vladimir Nabokov. Some other novels I have recently read and enjoyed include Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon," William Gibson's "Neuromancer" and "A Game of Thrones." Right now, I am reading "A Brief History of Seven Killings" by Marlon James.