July 19th, 2012


Book 96: Savages by Don Winslow

Book 96: Savages.
Author: Don Winslow, 2010.
Genre: Crime. Thriller. Drugs.
Other Details: Large Print Softback. 336 pages.

Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach–based marijuana operation, reaping significant profits from their loyal clientèle. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon took care of eliminating the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they can't handle—the Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, and sends them the message that a "no" is unacceptable. When they refuse to back down, the cartel escalates its threat, kidnapping Ophelia, the boys' playmate and confidante. O's abduction sets off a dizzying array of ingenious negotiations and gripping plot twists that will captivate readers eager to learn the costs of freedom and the price of one amazing high. - synopsis from Don Winslow's website.

I first heard of this novel via little snatches of movie news about Oliver Stone's upcoming film adaptation. It sounded intriguing and I found from the opening page I was caught up by its hip, wry narrative voice and the high octane unfolding story. I literally could not put this novel down and finished it in a single sitting.

Even though a leanly-written roller-coaster of a thriller there are layers to the narrative, including reflections on who actually are the savages of the title and biting commentary on life in modern-day America. Plenty of sex, drugs and violence. Reading it reminded me of my first experience of a Quentin Tarantino movie given the mixture of sharp humour and tragedy.

The language is strong though as the LA Times reviewer noted if a reader is offended by Winslow's two-word opening chapter (the second word is 'you') then they are not really an ideal reader for the novel. The same reviewer remarked that newcomers will "realize what Winslow fans have long known and will reach for the writer's back catalog". I'm certainly planning to.