Featured Author Review: Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

Kings of Cool

Don Winslow
Simon & Schuster
ISBN-10: 1451665326
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After first reading and reviewing Savages and now The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow, I’ve discovered something: the violence in his books—at least these two—is driven more by what’s not put on the page than what is. He describes it in terse sentences, but with only enough to leave the rest to readers’ imaginations. It’s effective—that’s the first conclusion I came to with The Kings of Cool.

The second is this: Winslow does just what he needed to do with the follow-up to Savages (a prequel, actually). Savages has the stronger, high-adrenaline plot, and The Kings of Cool, the stronger character development. We get to see where Ben, Chon, and O got rolling along before they tore ass through the prior release.

I was skeptical when starting The Kings of Cool. I wondered if it was cashing on the upcoming release of Savages as a major motion picture. I don’t know Don Winslow, so I can’t answer based upon his character, nor would I. I can answer that I don’t think so, though, based upon the quality of the new novel.

It’s very good.

The style is still frenetic, jumpy, all                                over                                       the place.

There’s still a two-word F-bomb hook for chapter one. One letter shorter, different pronoun. There’s still screenplay scattered about. If anyone criticizes this, the similarities to the style in Savages . . . they’re wrong. This is Ben, Chon, and O’s book. It should feel the same.

But it’s not just their book.

This novel also has family saga, in addition to the expected drug deals and cops. We get parents’ history, along with development of our three central characters. We follow Stan, Diane, Kim and Jon’s stories (though if I have one issue with the book, it’s that Kim is dropped from the book in a fairly cryptic way after being introduced as an interesting and engaging character). And even Winslow’s backstory has an almost breakneck pace. What’s cool is that the backstory and Ben, Chon, and O’s stories here eventually collide. And though Ben, Chon, and O’s story here is not as high-powered as their story in Savages (how could it be?), it’s balanced nicely with a high-energy account of the story of Stan, Diane, Jon, and to some extent, Kim.

There’s also a lot of humor in here, including a nice bit on the origin of Chon’s name, and combined with the character development and the implicit and powerful violence that’s part of the crime story, it’s another kick-ass book from Winslow. My only real question is this: if you’ve read neither, which one should you start with? I’m not sure that it matters. It’s great reading, all around, either way.

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