“Everything tastes better on a tortilla”. With this simple dictum ends “The Dawn Patrol” by Don Winslow. It’s a good ending. The spirit behind this phrase is a wonderful representation of the book’s tone.
The surf culture abounds. I’m not a surf guy. I’m more into scuba-diving. They both rate high on fellowship, kindness, journey, and cooperation, with surfers/scuba-divers helping each other out when they can and working together towards common goals. To make a story out of it is the hard part. Winslow, maybe because he lived the culture himself, is more able to mythify the surf culture. Nowadays the map of myth is lost to us. The core of 20th-century discourse has been convulsed by a paradox of semiotics. No need. Writers, such as Winslow, and a few others, are fully able to provide all the mythifying we need for our enjoyment. In this case, surf culture:
“U.S. Highway 101.
The Pacific Coast Highway.
“The Boulevard of Unbroken Dreams.
The Yellow Brick Road.
You may get your kicks on route 66, but you get your fun on Highway 101. You may take 66 to find America, but you won’t find The American Dream until you hit the PCH. Sixty-six is the route, but 101 the destination. You travel 66, you arrive at 101. It’s the end of the road, the beginning of the ride.”
(Myth: the surfer as the always-roaming, always-looking-for-new-things kind of person).
“Or drive it at dusk, when the ocean is golden, and the sun an orange fireball, with dolphins dancing in the break. Then the sun flames red, and it slips quietly over the horizon and the ocean slides to gray and then to black and you fell a little sad because this day is over, but you know it will begin again tomorrow.
Life on Highway 101.”
[Myth: the (metaphorical) power of the ocean realm]
What keeps me wanting to read Don Winslow? I’m not sure. Apart from his ability to produce mythifying-like literature, there’s definitely something more. The bottom line is that he’s (almost always) able to write inwhat I call “breezy style”, ie, his ability to paint clear pictures in succinct strokes.
Nobody’s going to claim that Winslow characters should always fully believable (they are not, hence Winslow’s mythifying ability). After all you’ve got give your heroes and villains some colour, so to speak. Elmore Leonard comes to mind when I think about it.
Another strong trait shows up in the dialogue. What Leonard first did and Winslow next keeps on doing is to show us how to transform the rhythm of his characters’ dialogue and interactions into its own art form; this speech and dialogue cadence will be instantaneously recognizable decades from now.
That distinct interchange between characters is usually never more captivating than when it’s in the hands of authors like Leonard and Winslow. Their characters always have a quick mind and a splendid gift of repartee. Delivering clever remarks with the kind of effortless cool is not an easy thing to do. Only those who’ve an ostensibly rich literary voice can do it. I’ve seen bad imitations of this (I won’t write down any names – I’m not sure about the writing policy on this internet medium; I’m quite sure what would happen at Goodreads; it happened to me several times…Forgive me the rant, but I had to get it out…That’s why I’ll refrain from mentioning any names in order not to cause undue stress).
To end this overlong review (it won’t happen many times, but sometimes the subject matter asks for it and because close reading does this to me…), I can’t resist showing you the following passage that I’d to re-read several times:
“Josiah Pamavatuu is a good man, no doubt about it.
Now he drives his truck with two wet and shivering women at his side and his best friend in the back, a man who is like family to him.
But like ain’t is.
Is is is.”
(Try repeating this out loud in rapid-fire mode)