Elaine Shannon is author of ``Desperados,'' on which the NBC mini-series ``Drug Wars: The Camarena Story'' is based. The series' ``strength is that it is art - theater - that can touch emotions in a way that a journalistically written news story or book can't,'' says Ms. Shannon, reached by phone at her Washington, D.C., home by the Monitor.

Shannon says she is quite pleased at the level of reality achieved by producers of the six-hour mini-series. ``They felt as strongly as I did about not highlighting the obvious - shootings and car chases and guns - but in letting viewers see, feel, and hear what its like out there. There is loneliness, fear, frustration.

``But to me the best part is that this shows you a bunch of people you know from real life who didn't take a lot of college ethics courses but know the difference between right and wrong and care passionately about making things right,'' she says.

``Then there are the people who are very well educated, who hold very high positions in our or their government but don't know right from wrong. They don't care about justice; they care about convenience, politics, their own careers. And it is that kind of contrast that I wanted to draw.''

Besides a heightened awareness of the facts in the Camarena case - key evidence of which is still being suppressed by Mexican officials - Shannon hopes viewers will come away with a clearer appreciation of the magnitude of drug production in Mexico, the United States' largest supplier of heroine and marijuana.

``Politically, I hope the next time Congress is in debate and people talk about sending troops in [we realize] that you just can't do that. They're not all gathered somewhere where you can bomb and walk away. It's a guerrilla war, truly a jungle.''

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