Rogue cellular networks – as seen in Wrecker

A lot of research goes into writing a book. Sometimes that research takes you to very odd places. I thought you might be interested in seeing where some of the things that turn up in a John Crane adventure come from. A great example of this comes from the second Crane novel, Wrecker. Set largely in Mexico, it brings Crane into contact with the country’s deadly narco cartels, and something else that’s using them for cover.

I’d known for some time that I wanted to set a Crane adventure in Baja California with its sundrenched deserts, crystal blue water, and reputation as a lawless frontier. It was in the process of researching the area that I stumbled across something that so amazed me I knew it had to go into the book.

Mexico’s narco cartels have become incredibly sophisticated operations. They’ve completely overwhelmed or simply infiltrated and taken over local police, and use military weapons and tactics to stand up to the country’s armed forces. But I was amazed to learn that they’ve actually started building their own private, illegal wireless communications networks, some providing cellular coverage over thousands of square miles of Mexican territory. These aren’t hackers taking over commercial cellular networks to keep authorities from intercepting their communications. These are whole physical networks of antennas and transmitters completely separate from the country’s telecommunications grid.

Of course it takes engineers and various other IT experts to build and maintain something like that. But the cartels don’t worry about things like that. If they need an expert in cellular network design, they can just go out and take one.

Here are a couple articles I used while researching Wrecker.

That’s some pretty amazing, and unsettling, truth. To see how it made it into fiction, check out Wrecker at Amazon.