Friday, July 23, 2010

Gentleman of the Hour: Don Winslow Part 3

Picking up and re-iterating from Part 1 and 2:
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.

Cover of "Shibumi"Cover of Shibumi
When Pop Culture Nerd informed me that the author's new publisher, Simon & Schuster, would be bringing out a new book of his in 2010 -- and it wouldn't be The Gentlemen's Hour (what I covered in the previous post) -- I was somewhat bummed. Still, it is a work by Don Winslow... And the man hasn't written anything that I've read that comes close to a by-the-numbers gig. This being the same guy who was tapped last year to write the prequel to the classic Trevanian thriller, Shibumi. Back in the day, for young males past their teens, and who weren't brain-dead as they left the decade of the 70's (I limit it to those who lifted a book on occasion), this book was required reading. Believe me, you just had to be there. Having DW helm this effort (expected in 2011), therefore, was a bit of good news. Nonetheless... what to make of the new book? Then, I found its descriptor:
"... a gritty, humorous, and drug-fueled ransom thriller set amidst the Baja Cartel in Laguna Beach, CA"

Let's go to the video, shall we?

Sign. Me. Up.

Savages was released on July 13th (I love that number, btw) and didn't disappoint. It turned out to be one hell of ride. Stylish as all get out, but never stupid in a vapid way, I can see why the publisher wanted this one pushed up. [Doing a sequel to a popular novel that came from another publisher never entered into their decision-making process, of course (queue the eye-roll, or so author hinted at last Tuesday's The Mystery Bookstore tour stop for the novel)] Indeed, having a pair of anti-heroes to cheer on, all the while you're anxiously and enthusiastically turning the pages (or in my case, pressing the Play button on the old iPod), certainly revealed an undeniable and irresistible 70's crime vibe to its modern noirish proceedings. Don't worry, it is manifestly a product of this century (OMG). If this doesn't grab the attention of folks who've yet to read him, I don't know what will (perhaps, an IED... but don't quote me on this).

Mr. Winslow, for the sake of audiobook enthusiasts, has also benefited by drawing an excellent narrator for this work. Michael Kramer, who did exceptional job with Thomas Perry's STRIP, sure as shootin' belted this one on and nailed the author's rapid-fire and distinct verve/verse. Without question, he captured the character Chon's bad-itude, Ben's mellow environmentalist/philanthropist leanings, and Ophelia's O's (friends, you've got to hear these) on the Tantor Media audiobook recording (follow the link to catch an MP3 audio sample of it). Like what Ray Porter did for The Dawn Patrol, The Power of the Dog, and Ron McLarty did for California Fire and Life, narrator Kramer brings the right amount of emotion, intellect, and sass in his delivery (some of it as the omnipresent commentator that is a root component of this tale). He gets it, and delivers the quintessential Winslow lines with the stipulated flair:
"The cartel will let them stay in business only if they sell solely to the cartel, which will then take the big profit margin for itself.
'They're Walmart,' O says.
(Have we covered that O is not stupid?)"

"The wine world is basically divided into red and white. (We ain't gonna go far with this--wine types are almost as hateful as tweekers. Every great wine-tasting session should end with arsenic.)"
See. What did I tell 'ya? No wonder Oliver Stone snatched up the rights for this book muy pronto (and was smart enough to get the screenwriter/novelist to write a draft of the proposed film's screenplay). Do yourself a favor, discover Don Winslow or this book (in any order... the rest will sort itself out.)

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  1. I'm so ready to sit down and listen! Wheeee!!!!!!!! Thank you, Michael. And yes, 13 is a favorite number of mine, too!

  2. I think you'll enjoy this one, Naomi. Did you catch what author Duane Swierczynsky recently tweeted about the book:

    "<span>Just gulped down the last 120+ pages of Don Winslow's SAVAGES. What a great read. Makes you laugh then punches you in the mouth.</span>"

    Yep. Thanks, Naomi.