THE SITE FOR DIE HARD CRIME & THRILLER FANS
KindlePrintReviews

The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

2 Mins read

The Kings of Cool is Don Winslow’s latest book. That’s the Don Winslow who wrote The Power of the Dog, Satori and Savages, the last of which has been made into what, by nearly all accounts, is an excellent film by Oliver Stone. For many people, that’s all I really need to say. However if you need a bit more than the elevator pitch, here goes.

This book is the prequel to Savages, Winslow’s story of three Southern California drug dealers whose success in selling high quality, hydroponically grown marijuana attracts the unwelcome and deadly attention of a Mexican drug cartel. Ben is an ethical slacker and the business brains behind the operation. Chon is the muscle – he comes into his own when things get rough. O, the most annoying of the three is… well… I’m not really sure what she is. Let’s just settle on the messed up rich girl, the group’s mascot and popular culture cypher.

The Kings of Cool looks at the three friends as they start out in the drug business in the 90s, as well as exploring their complicated histories and how they first met up. Interwoven into this is the story of another group of counter cultural types in Southern California back in the 60s, and the evolution of their decision to become drug traffickers, from the amateurish beginnings to the more serious consequences as the Summer of Love fades and the trade mutates into a high stakes business. Friendship gives way to paranoia and organised crime gets involved – including what for Winslow connoisseurs is a very entertaining cameo by a mafia enforcer called Frankie Machine.

Yes, the two sets of characters from the two different periods are somehow related. Yes, the plotline involves a group of older guys trying to shake down Ben, Chon and O. But to say more might spoil it for you.

The Kings of Cool is the kind of high-octane crime thriller you expect from Winslow, however what makes it really interesting is his attempt to paint an alternative history of Southern California. This is depicted in terms of the changes in the drug culture and the people who inhabit it. It also includes what for me is some fascinating detail about the logistics involved in the large-scale cultivation of hydroponic marijuana.

I find Winslow’s writing has a fluid, almost effortless feel. It’s like he’s so on top of his game and knows what he’s saying so well that he can knock books out between beers over a lazy weekend. I’m sure that’s not the reality but whatever the case, his ability to impart complex backstory and character descriptions in a minimum of paragraphs is incredible.

The only thing about Kings of Cool I didn’t like was Winslow’s decision to write in the style of a film script every now and again. Thankfully, he doesn’t do it all that often, because at times it does feel like you’re sitting in the middle of a pitch for the film rights. Otherwise it’s another terrific book by an author who keeps on getting better.

Random House
Print/Kindle
£9.31

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

The Kings of Cool is available in hardback now, the Kindle version arrives 9 August and the paperback is out 1 November.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts
Features

First look: The Night of Baba Yaga by Akira Otani

Do you ever feel like it’s time to try something new? Well, a first look at The Night of Baba Yaga, out in September and written by Akira Otani, tells us that this is crime fiction that will take you to a different place. The…
KindlePrintReviews

The Debt Collector by Steven Max Russo

Here’s a new crime thriller that will upend your expectations at every turn – Steven Max Russo’s The Debt Collector. The literati say there are only two plots in all of literature: a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. This…
iBookKindlePrintReviews

Pay Dirt by Sara Paretsky

Pay Dirt is the 22nd book in the VI Warshawski series by veteran US crime author Sara Paretsky. Back in the 1980s, female characters in crime novels tended to be vamps or victims, according to the author, so at that time a lead character like…
Crime Fiction Lover