It took some head-scratchin' for me to figure out why I didn't much enjoy this super-competently-written thriller, but it boils down to character. The Dawn Patrol are a group of San Diego surfers who all qualify as Beautiful People. Granted, none of them are rich, but they're definitely the Cool Clique: not a loser among them. When it comes to thrillers, especially surfer-thrillers (see Tapping The Source, by Kem Nunn) I most willingly swallow the hook when there's a genuinely revolting, morally compromised sad-sack sitting in the center.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Lee Child is RightJune 11 2008
Richard B. Schwartz
- Published on Amazon.com
In a jacket blurb, Lee Child says that no one does this kind of thing better than Don Winslow. He's right. Winslow's skills are, to say the least, very impressive. The Power of the Dog was epic in its scope; The Winter of Frankie Machine was smaller and more focused but absolutely pitch-perfect, a tale of an aging mobster that may well turn into a DeNiro movie. The Dawn Patrol is very different, but equally successful and equally impressive.
Here, Winslow recreates a world--the world of the surfer, the San Diego variety, complete with its names, language, food, attitudes, dress and culture. The almost-lost world of the idealized past has, however, been altered by the strip clubs and other sleazoid operations that follow the navy. When these worlds collide (a former SDPD officer-turned-surfer investigates the murder of a supposed witness in a major civil case) the results (in Don Winslow's hands) are stunning. As we move toward the solution of the crime(s) we move toward the arrival of a massive oceanic event and in the final chapters Winslow quick-cuts between the hunt for the bad guys, the saving of the innocent and the search for the perfect Pacific wave.
I particularly like the historical reflections on San Diego, on the world of surfing and on such important cultural elements as the PCH--how it began and what it's become. It is a truism in novel writing that the effective novelist 'creates a world'; Don Winslow certainly has here, though 'recreates' is the more appropriate term. I only have one regret. Winslow has been writing standalones. I love the members of the 'dawn patrol' and would very much like to see them become part of a series. Winslow began as a series writer and here he has created an exceptional ensemble cast.
This is a near-perfect novel. Plot, pacing, characters, setting, texture, themes--all are here and all are handled expertly. It's early in the summer of 2008 and there are many books by master writers on the horizon, but so far this is the one to beat. Don't miss it. And if you haven't discovered Don Winslow yet, you have a lot to look forward to.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"Gnarly, Brah"June 9 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Break out your Surfbonics-to-English Dictionary and chill with Don Winslow in "Dawn Patrol", a slick novel of SoCal's surf culture cleverly wrapped in an engaging mystery.
Boone Daniels is the ultimate California surfer stereotype: lean and athletic, laid back, unflappable, and not ready to let trivial "civilian" interests like job, family, or typical responsibilities associated with adulthood interfere with mother ocean and the perfect wave. With his colorful "dawn patrol" posse of Dave "the God to Women", kid "Hang Twelve", the massive Samoan "High Tide", San Diego cop Johnny Banzai, and his female alter ego and sometimes sex partner Sunny Day, Boone and the crew are in the surf each morning at daybreak passing time - like compiling lists of the best things in life - while waiting for the next big ride. Boone is a former SDPD cop himself with some demons of his own lurking beneath his chill exterior - now a private investigator of sorts, content with working enough to only keep him in adequately stocked in fish tacos and board wax. When the foxy but uptight aspiring lawyer Petra shows up with an insurance company gig, Boone is conflicted: he could use the "jangle", but an underwater disturbance in the Aleutians is sending a freight train of monster waves to the Southern Cal coast unlike anything that's been seen in decades, and certainly not an event that a hardcore surfer like Boone would even consider missing. But Petra is persistent, not to mention alluring in an annoyingly buttoned down way, and Boone agrees to find the stripper pivotal in catching San Diego's sex sleaze king in an insurance scam.
Nobody can capture Southern California's beaches and bimbos better than the talented Don Winslow, and "Dawn Patrol" is a terrific example of the artist at his most righteous. Winslow's seemingly mismatched cast of characters is brilliant - he captures a credible cast in staccato chapters shredding across the pages in dialog that is authentic, witty and cynically funny - all of Carl Hiaasen's black humor, but where Hiaasen has a tendency to dis his denizens of south Florida, Winslow's playful barbs reflects a deep and sincere passion for those still carrying the torch of the original California surfing subculture. Indeed, the Boone/Winslow chapter which detours down Route 101, the famous Pacific Coast Highway, is a short, poignant, and illuminating slice of American culture too often capsulized only in the 60's music of the Beach Boys.
But aside from surfing and surfer culture, "Dawn Patrol" is a serious and thoughtful crime novel, and at a deeper level, an insightful coming of age story - albeit an atypically late passage from adolescence to adulthood. As a second "dawn patrol" emerges, the story takes a despicably sinister turn, and while the climax is mostly predictable, it takes nothing away from a engaging storyline. But make no mistake: the plot is secondarly here, as Winslow's real stars are his characters and their banter, set against a vivid and authoritative SoCal backdrop. Winslow is the real deal, and if you haven't got to know him yet, this is a great place to start. If you do, I'm sure you'll be back for "California Fire and Life", "The Winter of Franky Machine", "The Death and Life of Bobby Z", and Winslow's epic masterpiece, "The Power of the Dog."
So great stuff, Mr. Winslow - keep 'em coming. And for those of you - like me - bummed with Lee Child's disappointing "Nothing to Lose", you'll find some instant redemption right here.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great PI Novel Set In San DiegoAug. 4 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
As a former private eye himself, author Don Winslow knows how to walk the walk and talk the talk. Apparently from the surfer lingo and expertise scattered throughout THE DAWN PATROL, Winslow also knows how to ride the waves, brah.
I loved his last book, THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE, and am looking forward to the movie. So I picked up THE DAWN PATROL with a lot of enthusiasm and high expectation regarding character development. Winslow didn't let me down. He hit his marks from the first line and had me frantically turning pages thereafter. Not only was the character development constantly in motion, so was the plot and all the emotional complications - as well as the twisty mystery/crime angle.
Boone Daniels (and yep, that name sparked a lot of commentary throughout the novel, `cause it's like Daniel Boone only backward) is a slacker private investigator in San Diego. But slacker though he is, he's also the guy a lot of lawyers go to when they need to turn up a lowlife or get information from the more dangerous neighborhoods in the city. But although Boone can be a tough guy, being a hardnosed private eye isn't really his way. Usually he nabs the person he's after or the information he's looking for because everyone likes him and because he's brutally clever.
Boone only works when he has to, and since his landlord will let him slide on the rent (Boone once did him a good turn and the old man really likes living on the fringes of Boone's detecting), Boone really doesn't have to work all that often. Mostly he's out on the waves. Generally the cases he does accept don't take him that long. He's connected to all the lowlifes and moves through them like a shark blazing through a calm lagoon.
One of the things I most loved about the book (and the one that is going to compel me to read through it again) is the band of characters that support Boone. They're all colorful and different, almost a full spectrum of the way Boone's life could have and might still go if he chooses a path. I especially loved the way I got to slide into their heads briefly enough to understand the conflicts that fired them into doing the different things they did throughout the novel.
Petra, the lady lawyer that insists on accompanying Boone on his search for a missing witness, is well done. If this book makes it to the movie studios (and it definitely has my vote), it's going to take a great actress to pull it all off. She's strong and sexy, and a complete pain in the butt when she wants to be - which is exactly the kind of character to pit Boone against as he tries to grind out what should be an investigation cakewalk that turns ugly and dangerous. Her appearance and subsequent interest in Boone causes problems with Boone's main squeeze, Sunny Day.
There's enough action, betrayal, and mystery to keep fans of the private eye genre devouring the book. Even if you figure out what's actually taking place, you're still in for a great ride while Winslow ties up every plot thread he's dangled out there in a satisfactory conclusion.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
"Everybody has a price."June 3 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
In Winslow's latest adventure, he takes a generous slice of surf culture in Pacific Beach, California, contrasting the dark world of criminal enterprise with the undying loyalty of dedicated surfers to an ocean that constantly renews and never disappoints. Peopled with eccentric characters, the Dawn Patrol rides the surf together every day, for a brief time oblivious to the low life that feeds on strip clubs and an increasingly violent drug culture, in this case Red Eddie, Dan Silver and their hired muscle. Winslow peppers his dialog with "surfbonics", the easy patter of generations of families who have cut their teeth surfing the Pacific right outside their doors, the camaraderie of loyal friends who keep their priorities straight, "living to surf, surfing to live".
Boone Daniels, ex-SDPD, has had his share of disappointments, including a short-lived career on the force until the seminal moment when he makes a decision that changes his life over a case that haunts him still. But this is Winslow's great theme, the flawed, very human characters that make mistakes but learn to adjust their expectations, finding the finer selves that sometimes go off track. Boone can always locate his center on the ocean waiting for the big one, the killer set that only arrives once every few years. That's just what he's contemplating when interrupted by the need for cash. A striking, aggressive lawyer, Petra Hall, needs assistance locating a missing witness in an arson case and has been given current PI Boone's name. Reluctantly, Boone endures Petra's tenacity as she rides along with him in search of the witness, an elusive stripper in the sights of a venal boss who will stop at nothing to protect his interests.
When a stripper takes a header off a balcony at a local hotel, Boone worries that this is his witness, but instead it is just the beginning of a wild ride, one step ahead of the strip club owner and the cops. From the casual surf culture to the luxurious offices of a plastic surgeon who is a local legend, Boone's investigation takes him from the stripper's apartment to the wealthy enclaves of entitlement and the vanishing strawberry fields of itinerant workers. (A bonus: the historical details of local coastal development from the 1800s to the current real estate market's cannibalization of everything nostalgic, a bit of Americana.) But the Dawn Patrol takes on new meaning as Boone stumbles over the jarring information that has thus far eluded him in the investigation, a peek into the darker side that is harder to explain away and speaks to the real depravity of man.
In true Winslow fashion, Boone is propelled into a netherworld that he cannot ignore; facing his past demons, Boone is a changed man, his future unresolved but perhaps at least more viable. Winslow reminds us that even beneath the shining surface of the Pacific Ocean, surface dotted with dedicated surfers, there remains a pervasive ugliness that soils the best intentions of a world bathed in beauty, the underbelly of human depravity unrepentant. Luan Gaines/ 2008.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Another Tsunami from Don WislowJuly 8 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
I just love this guy. He and Michael Connelly are the two authors whose novels I anticipate with the intent of buying the day they are released. Other writers I wait for the paperback, but those two are just too good. Elmore Leonard comparisons abound in reviews of Winslow's work, but I enjoy Winslow's work full of quirky characters even more. This is not as good as "Power of the Dog", which I consider his masterpiece to date, but it is still a great read. As I read this novel I felt like I got to know a whole cast of characters. Winslow is able to tell the reader so much about each of his characters in often sparce prose. You can picture every one of the Dawn Patrol as well as the novels other colorful cast of characters; Petra, Tammy, Teddy D-Cup, Red Eddie, and Dan Silver, and I'll guarantee that as you read this book you'll have a vivid image of these folks just like Winslow envisioned when he created them. That is why his novels are 5 star reads. Great characters, wonderful dialogue, and plots containing several interesting twists and subplots. The only bummer is I have to wait a year or two for the next great ride.