Sunday, November 15, 2020

Review: Deep Cover

By Claire Booth

I recently finished Deep Cover, a podcast that bills itself as “marijuana, motorcycles and mayhem.” I call it a nine-episode masterpiece.

Journalist Jake Halpern begins with an FBI agent investigating local biker drug gangs in Michigan in the 1980s. He ends it with the overthrow of a Latin American dictator. And yes, everything in between is linked.

Along the way, he connects the dots all the way up the illicit business chain. I sat there listening to some of these people and thinking, “How are you not dead or in federal prison right now?” I won’t spoil the answer to that question, but I will say that Halpern’s interview subjects have nothing left to lose, and the podcast listeners are the winners. They all tell great stories—how to smuggle several tons of marijuana into the United States; how Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee ruins things; and how one guy had a guard pig (not a dog—a pig) that was high on meth. If I haven’t sold you on it with that last one, well then I give up.

The nine-episode narrative arc is all held together by Timmons, who spent years undercover. He’s the kind of guy who could’ve easily tipped the other way in life and become a criminal. Instead, he becomes the next best thing. A pretend one, backed by the power and resources of the FBI. Timmons is a great interview—blunt, honest (probably), and willing to be a little self-reflective. Halpern talks to colleagues and Timmons’s ex-wife to fill in the rest.

The whole podcast is full of fantastic narrative storytelling from Halpern. That isn’t an easy thing to pull off with non-fiction. This story could’ve easily been a jumpy mess of separate parts that didn’t cohere. But everything hangs together perfectly. I recommend you download it now.

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