Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gentleman of the Hour: Don Winslow Part 2

Picking up and re-iterating from Part 1:
One of the best discoveries I made last year (care of the L.A. Times Festival of Books book panel with him, Robert Crais, Jeff Parker, and Joseph Wambaugh), was reading Don Winslow for the first time. As I've said before, the transplanted New Yorker by way of Perryville, Rhode Island (and now a southern Californian and renowned chronicler of this region) is simply one hell of a writer. Starting with the fabulously titled, The Winter of Frankie Machine, in May and ending with the man's fierce opus (an epic that once started, doesn't let you go), The Power of the Dog come December, his novels helped to make 2009 quite a year for me in the literary sense.
In between those books, byway of recommendations from my dear blogging friends Pop Culture Nerd and Corey Wilde, I read the author's 2008 novel, The Dawn Patrol. Even though I'm a born and raised Angeleno, surfing is not in my DNA (nor on my radar). Still, the story it weaved had me enthralled (right along with having me yearn to get on a board... of all things). Plus, the character universe Winslow built around his P.I. protagonist (and surf legend) Boone Daniels grew my attachment to the Pacific Beach-centered story even more. I noted in my very brief review of the audiobook that a sequel would soon arrive (as in July 2009). Of course, the love-fest only went so far since its publication was only in the U.K. Bummer.

Pop Culture Nerd then informed me that the author's new publisher, Simon & Schuster, would be bringing out a new book in 2010 -- and it wouldn't be the that Boone Daniels and friends sequel, The Gentlemen's Hour. Wipe-out. Can you wait til 2011? Since I'm crotchety now that I'm in my fifties, the answer is, ah... no. I firmly believed holding back this man's work (and talent) is just a waste for him, his fans, and those people who've yet to discover how great this writer really is. So, I bought TGH from the U.K., and decided to share it with my blogging friends.

My copy of (a William Heinemann publication) The Gentlemen's Hour made its way to Ohio (three times), Arizona, Tennessee, Naucalpan, Mexico, and back to California (more than once) from mid-October 2009 to early July of this year. I had hopes to share the story with the author at this year's L.A. Times Festival of Books, but Mr. Winslow was out of country during that event (hence, the softcover stayed out on the road). With this year's new book release, I scheduled my rendezvous for last night's book signing for Savages at the wonderful indie book store, The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood Village (near the UCLA campus). I shared the softcover's journey with the author, and he seemed touched by it (he is definitely a gentleman and a scholar, and a class guy).

And how good is The Gentlemen's Hour? Excepts from my friends who reviewed or wrote in the book:

Elyse Dinh-McCrillis:
"Loved this."
Corey Wilde (from his review of the book):
"And it is this complex overlay of work and friendships that is one of the major points of difference between this book and most other SoCal crime fiction. The only other book I know that thoroughly works this particular complication is Crais's LA Requiem, and if a book can stand comparison to that particular classic then you know you've got your mitts on one heckuva story."
Jen Forbus (from her review of the book):
"While the ocean may not look like it's doing much in THE GENTLEMEN'S HOUR, Winslow is making a huge splash with the return of "Boone freaking Daniels" and his surfing crew: "Dave the Love and War God, Johnny Absolutely Banzai, High Rolling Tide, and Hang Tough Twelve," not to mention "Loco Ono." If you enjoyed THE DAWN PATROL, you will love THE GENTLEMEN'S HOUR. If you haven't read THE DAWN PATROL, now's the time."
Naomi Johnson:
"Wonderful book."
Alphonso Padilla:
"An amazing book!"
Brian & Christine McCann:
"Brian's right, only surfbonics will do: EPIC. MACKING, CRUNCHY. :-) A real treat!"
Lesa Holstine (from her review of the book):
"Don Winslow's powerful novel is a crime novel of society out of control. But, The Gentlemen's Hour is actually the story of Boone Daniel's search for answers. Petra Hall sees him as a complicated man, "A Tarzan-like surfer boy who reads Russian novels at night...A disillusioned cynic with barely concealed idealism." Winslow has taken the detective as knight errant and turned him into a surfer trying to make his world right. Boone Daniels is an unforgettable man in a complicated, fascinating story."

That, my friends, is how good this novel is. When I read the book, the characters in the story pulled me right back in (as if I never left the sand and sea). This time, without too much need for character backstory (like in TDP), Winslow's comfort level with the various personalities shined through immediately and help build the story's suspense and power. No, I do not consider myself a champion for this writer (his work stands up quite nicely without my help), but I know what I like. And I like spreading the word of what's good in this case. Luckily for folks like us, as the author confirmed last night, The Gentlemen's Hour be out next summer (and a couple others in the series are already planned for). BTW, the book Don Winslow is holding in the picture below is my copy of TGH (the one that holds the handwritten words of my friends). It uses the old cover art (based upon a Getty Image). The new version for the U.K. softcover is now this. As you tell by now, I highly recommend the novel -- now and next summer.

(click to enlarge)

To be continued...

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13 comments:

  1. Lesa.Holstine@gmail.comJuly 22, 2010 at 4:30 AM

    Michael!

    I've been waiting for your summary of the event.  Thank you. I like it that Mr. Winslow is holding your copy of the book in the picture. 

    And, thank you for introducing me to him.  So, two days ago, I had a man at the library asking me questions about a number of authors.  I don't think he expected me to know the characters and authors of all of the books he mentioned, including Don Winslow's books.  He loved him.  Fortunately, I recognized most of the crime fiction he asked about. (Then, he went on to tell me he read most of it when he was incarceratred.)

    Lesa

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  2. That's a great story, Lesa. I remember at a Robert Crais event, someone in the audience told the author that his books are what got him through a similar stint in jail. It's amazing what people gravitate to when in those situations. Thanks very much for your comment, your review, and participating in this book's journey, my friend.

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  3. Beautiful! I love that you got to share the story of the book's journey with him and got the photo of him holding that copy. Is he braced for the wave of popularity he's getting?

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  4. I sure hope he's braced. His latest seems to be doing well. Thanks very much for adding to that book's journey and your kind words, Naomi.

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  5. I love the book journey! That is awesome and I can't even imagine how touched the author must have been to hear about it. And what a lovely enabler, er, book friend you are to have shared the paperback. :)

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  6. Very kind of you to say, Rachel. Thanks very much.

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  7. Pop Culture NerdJuly 24, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    I'm so glad you had a chance to tell Winslow about the international book journey you created with TGH. I'm even happier you were kind enough to include me in the tour. How can you say you're not a champion of his work?

    I'd heard he intends to write more about Boone and the gang but your report that there will be a couple more installments made me whoop with joy!

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  8. Pop Culture NerdJuly 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    Remember the letters Crais read from people who said his books got them (or a loved one) through chemo? Those are really moving. I can't imagine what it's like to know you have the power to touch people in that way.

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  9. So true. Excellent point, Elyse. Thanks.

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  10. Yeah, I think the people there were as happy to hear this and I. DW has created a fantastic ensemble of characters in this series. Thanks, Elyse.

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  11. First of all, I'm way jealous that you were able to see him in person.  Second, I can't thank you enough for sharing your copy  of The Gentlemen's Hour with Brian and I.  I'm so glad you got a photo with him holding your copy.  And third, HOT DAMN! There's going to be more of Boone Daniels and company!!!  Thanks so much for sharing about your evening with DW and the wonderfulness that is The Mystery Bookstore.

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  12. I'm lucky that I live on the left coast as it seemed DW's book tour either kept in on this side of the Mississippi, or in Europe. And yes, The Mystery Bookstore folks are one great bunch. I think you and Brian should make you way out here to catch him at one of these ;) . It's great to see you back online, Christine. You've been missed by all of us. Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing in this GENTLEMEN'S HOUR.


    p.s., just talked to TMB and they hope to get that vid of that Don Winslow night up on YouTube relatively soon. I promise to link.

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