Dan “Tito” Davis comes from a town in South Dakota that’s so small everyone knows their neighbor’s cat’s name. But once he got out, he made some noise. While at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, he started manufacturing White Crosses, aka speed, and soon had the Banditos Motorcycle Club distributing ten million pills a week. After serving a nickel, he got into the weed game, but just when he got going, he was set up by a childhood friend. Facing thirty years, Davis slipped into Mexico, not knowing a word of Spanish, which began a thirteen-year odyssey that led him to an underground hideout for a MedellIn cartel, through the jungles of the Darien Gap, the middle of Mumbai’s madness, and much more.
From the San Francisco Book Review:
We’ve all heard it said that truth is stranger than fiction. I can’t say this is always true, having read some very strange pieces of unconventional fiction, but I can say that truth is sometimes just as wild and exciting as fiction, and Gringo is the perfect example of that.
Dan Davis, also called Tito, has lived an extraordinary life, and I am lucky enough that a man with the skills of Peter Conti was willing to help him tell his story. The book opens with what I consider the literary variant of a television teaser: a prologue which shows where the author’s life will go, featured just before a first chapter, which goes back to the author’s childhood. While at times this may seem like a cheap trick, when used effectively, it can stir excitement and maintain the reader’s interest. This prologue falls into the latter camp, and all through the first few chapters, I found myself wondering just what would lead Tito to flee to Central America and where his life would go from there.
That’s not to say that I skimmed through those chapters, looking eagerly for the time when the action would pick up. While I was eager to reach the part of his life which would feature his flight from the law, those early chapters were far from wasted. They gave me insight into Tito’s personality, allowing me to understand who he is and how he reached the part of his life that would form the endpoint of the book.
The story begins with Tito – still merely Dan Davis then – as a young Midwestern man, looking for some way to make money. He settles on selling drugs, and from a little ambition, a little know-how, and some good luck in knowing the right people, he finds himself with a nascent drug empire on his hands. This part of the book alone could make a compelling tale, but the story continues from there. Betrayed by someone he thought he could trust, Davis finds himself hunted by the government, and he abandons his family to flee the country, making his way to Central America. Once there, he does not merely lie low but sets about building a life for himself.
Tito has lived a fascinating life, one well worth reading about, and I was enthralled by every page. Tito’s ambition and know-how lead him far past his humble Midwestern beginnings, and his rise and fall made a tale well worth reading, one which I would recommend to anyone.