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The Outlaws Inc.: Under the Radar and on the Black Market with the World's Most Dangerous Smugglers

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  22 reviews
This riveting account reveals the secret corners of our supposedly flat world: black markets where governments are never seen but still spend outrageous amounts of money. Journalist Matt Potter tells the story of Yuri and his crew, a gang of Russian military men who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union found themselves without work or prospects. So they bought a decommi ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA (first published June 1st 2011)
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Tony
This book takes what is a truly interesting subject for about 40-60 pages and milks it over and over for 300 pages until bone dry. The basics can be summarized in a long paragraph:

The dissolution of the Soviet Union led to sudden unemployment for hundreds of thousands of former Soviet soldiers, and essentially free-for-all looting of former Soviet military supplies. A large number of experienced military pilots and crew immediately went into business as "no problem" couriers (as in, "any cargo,
...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Engagingly written, the author recounts the background as well as his own experience of flying with modern day smugglers, mostly former Soviet, who operate on the edge of what's legal.
Transporting anything anyone is willing to pay for between any two locations, cargo can be humanitarian aid, paid for by the UN, flown into, say, Somalia, or shipments of weapons for rebels in the exact same country. Though overstating the perceived glamour somewhat and dramatizing his stories, the tale rings true
...more
Benjamin Spurlock
An absolutely fantastic book, dealing with a complicated and fascinating issue. Matt Potter brings all of his journalistic powers to bear on the issue of modern-day smugglers: no Han Solos here, but rather desperate men and women who have found a niche in a global economy that polite society refuses to acknowledge.

This is more than just a telling of dates and times, though. Mr. Potter digs deep into the geopolitics, reveals the false dichotomy of 'good guys' and 'bad guys,' and adds his own uniq
...more
Chris Avery
Matt potters often shocking Account of the underbelly of the 'Courier' business, paints a picture of an under publicized but very real 'grey' world that most of our leaders know exists, and often partake in.
The narrative is simple enough to follow. The collapse of the Soviet union had many consequences. One of these was the logical privatization of Russia's industries. Shares handed out to every citizen was seen as a way to start the populace off on an equal footing in the new capitalist Russia.
...more
Noah

Outlaws, Inc, is an exhaustive and impressively researched book on post Soviet Airmen turned smugglers in the 1990s and present day. By the midpoint, however, I just couldn't get myself to finish this book.

Having read the synopsis, I was sold instantly. Journalist Mark Potter follows a group of Soviet Airmen who, at the fall of the Soviet Union, re-registered an IL-76 Cargo plane and became the bona fide A-Team of international smuggling. This had me interested on every level. How could you go w
...more
Alex Schenker
Imagine yourself in a small bar within a stones throw of a dirt airstrip in the Congo. Smokey room filled with hushed conversations punctuated by the bellowing laughter and hard talk of Ex Russian military fly-boys. The moment you see them you know they have clocked more hours than any pilot in here, you also start to get the feeling that there is no way in hell these guys are flying for UPS. Enter the world of the best of the best, Smugglers from the bowels of the earth, flying massive planes f ...more
Paul
Matt Potter takes an intrinsically-interesting subject -- the worldwide illicit air cargo/smuggling network that came into existence after the breakup of the Soviet Union, flown by fearless Russian crews manning high-time and sometimes derelict Ilyushin and Antonov cargo planes, fronted by movers and shakers like the infamous Victor Bout -- and writes a book that, after the first 50 to 60 pages, is all repetition. This would have been a terrific long article in Rolling Stone. Expanded to book le ...more
Natalie
The subject of "Outlaws Inc."--unregulated air traffic, the black market it supports, and the flight crews who make a living therein--isn't something I knew anything about when I started the book. I found it a fascinating subject, and the book was super informative. Overall, though, Potter seems to make his point multiple times; the majority of the book felt redundant. By the time he has his epiphany in the airplane toward the end of the book, the average reader will have already figured out the ...more
Luke Bowden
i liked that the plot was action packed from the beginning. i felt like the book starts quickly and then chapter by chapter its slows down. i loved all of the book because there was nothing not to like. the book was interesting because its talking about war.

my favorite character is mikey because he was an outgoing person and he is not afraid of anything. i think he reminds me of my brother because they are both in the army and they will do anything for their country. mikey is like me because w
...more
Shane Kiely
Interesting insight into a world I was vaguely familiar with (basically from snippets in Lord Of War) but that had more depth to it than I initially expected. The world of illegal flights & how they tie into the greater geopolitical milieu since the fall of the Soviet Union is explored but the book also touches on the pilots themselves & offers a glimpse of the lives they lead. It's interesting though the constant barrage of different locations do begin to blend together. There is an und ...more
Samantha
Very interesting, really got you to empathize with those crews.
Gary
This was a great insiders look into the world of the Black Market dealers and the people that move the product around.The way things are stored in plain sight inside the planes could give David Copperfield a run for his money.It also tells the story of how these men became pilots for hire,the men that found them & what happens when you fly so close to the edge in aging planes with overloaded cargo holds.
This is a great read with many funny,shocking & holy moley moments.
Lauren H
The topic is interesting for sure, and the author has firsthand experiences that shed some light onto the personal aspect. That said, I struggled to get through the book. The syntax is bad. What's worse is the author can't decide whether to write it like a factual account or to embellish as if it were a novel (full of trite metaphors and redundancy). A great opportunity for insight was lost to a self-centered and intellectually inept analysis.
Greg Cummings
Forget what you thought you knew about the movement of contraband around the planet. Ok, so you had knowledge of the trade before you picked up this book. For any body who's ever spent long delays in a Third World airport wondering what that ground crew was loading into that unmarked Antanov, this is the perfect book to look away to, and find out the real story. Hold on to your seats, you're in for the flight of your life.
Owen Brooks
Don't bother.
About 50 pages of content stretched into a book. There was a few really interesting stories but they were too far apart to sustain any sort of pace. I gave up when it rambled around the same hidden tonnage revelation for the fifth time.
Charley
Really interesting look into a crazy world of smuggling, disintegrating soviet era planes, humanitarian aid and rogue Russian pilots. Well written, engaging and informative.
Alex Strick van Linschoten
What a STORY! This book kept me up all night. Engagingly written (if a little expansive at times).
Malcolm Fenner
A very good insightful book on a very hidden and influential aspect of arms trading and aid.
Christine
The book is much too long for what the author has to say. So, he always repeats himself.
Gary
This is a jaw dropping story that suffers only from too much waffling from the author
Scott
Could have been about 100 pages shorter, otherwise interesting read.
Austin
Excellent read
CRAWFORD COLLINS
CRAWFORD COLLINS is currently reading it
May 17, 2015
Justin Rettke
Justin Rettke marked it as to-read
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“The US military had this huge generator they needed to get to an airfield site they were planning in the south. This was a remote area, and aside from a few pockets of US troops, it was completely under bandit control. There was no fuel available for miles around the landing spot, and none of the outfits we approached would touch it with a bargepole. They all kept saying, “We’ll never get out again, how can we take off from an unprepared airfield with no fuel?” ‘The job was priced at between sixty thousand and seventy thousand dollars, but one day there’s a phone call from these Russian guys. They said, “We’ll do it, but it’ll cost you two million dollars, in advance.” The Americans didn’t really have a choice by this stage, so they paid. And sure enough, right on time, this ex-Soviet air force crew flew in, with the generator, in this battered old Il-76, unloaded the generator, then sat down for a leisurely smoke. ‘Just as all the Americans were wondering how on earth they were going to fly out again, there’s a cloud of dust and up clatters this old minibus driven by some Afghan bloke – and these airmen just get in and drive off. The Yanks were all going, “Hey, how will you get the plane back?” And the crew just said, “We won’t. It’s an old one – we only bought it for this job, and we’re ditching it here.” Half a million dollars it cost them, and they held it together with string just long enough to land, then cleared off one and a half million dollars in profit and left it to rust. It’s still there.” 0 likes
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