LitStack's Featured Author Review: Savages by Don Winslow

This month, we’re pleased to host, as our June Featured Author, prolific novelist Don Winslow. Winslow (b. 1953) is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen crime and mystery novels as well as short stories and film screenplays. A Cool Breeze on the Underground, Winslow’s debut and the first novel in his popular Neal Carey series, was nominated for an Edgar Award. Before becoming a full-time writer, Winslow worked as a private detective in New York and California.

Savages will be released July 6 as a film by prominent director Oliver Stone and stars Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively.

Thanks to Mr. Winslow for supporting LitStack!





Don Winslow
Simon & Schuster
ISBN-10: 1439183376

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I’ve never read a writer quite like Don Winslow or a book quite like Savages. Beyond all its stylistic quirks and frenetic narrative structure—which is all good, right on, man—it’s a crime novel about a couple of Laguna Beach/Southern California, pot-producing, slacker buddies , Ben and Cho, their wonderfully orgasmic friend “O,” and the Mexican Baja Cartel.

Nah, it’s about sex and drugs.  Explicitly so.

And it’s explicit in its depiction of said things. And in its depiction of violence.

It has someone called Chain Saw Guy. It uses language you find written in public toilet stalls to describe sex. It’s a weed-dreamer’s dream weed.

But it’s not just sex in this book. It’s a walking, talking, and flashing how-to for love triangles

It feels like it’s jumping all over the place. And it is.

But it really isn’t. Because it all comes together in a very non-Hollywood (I want to see what Oliver Stone does with it when the film comes out), mostly surprising, dark and satisfying ending.

It’s a crime story. A love story. A dark comedy. Noir.

Chapter 1 is two words long. The second word is “you,” and the first starts with an F.

Chapter 213 is a screenplay.

Chapter  231 is about 400 words long and has this description of a character: “. . . pounds beer, eats Hormel chili and Dinty Moore beef stew, watches baseball on his little TV and looks at porn except when he can pull a four-wheeler chick off her dune buggy, one who doesn’t mind a trailer.”

Other chapters do various other “righteous” things.

I don’t know much about drug cartels or this part of the U.S. where the book is set—strike that, now I do, I think. Winslow either knows a lot and shares it or has pulled off the greatest ruse an author has ever cooked up. This is a wild, wacky, profane ride, and it feels authentic.

Nobody’s really all that likeable, mostly despicable, so I like ‘em. Wait, I like O just on principle. Everybody is a mess, though. And the Mexican Baja Cartel is really mean.

The plot twists come often, the dialogue crackles, chapters read like lines or paragraphs . . . or seizures of some literary sort, and some of ‘em are, but what amazed me is how fast I read the book combined with how full I realized it was when I finished.

This book is a hitchhiker that won’t get out of your brain, and it’s a cure for narcolepsy.

Next up, the prequel, The Kings of Cool (June 19, 2012, Simon & Schuster), where I’ll find out what led these characters, Ben, Cho, and O, to the place where they begin in Savages.

3 thoughts on “LitStack's Featured Author Review: Savages by Don Winslow

  1. Not really my genre, but after reading your review, I think I'll add it to my list of "must reads". Thanks, Brady!

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