Sunday, October 9, 2011
The Gentlemen's Hour
One of the best things about working at a library is when shipments of new books come in. It's like Christmas. We recently got a batch of books and while I do have input on what the library acquires, I usually feel that my reading interests don't align with many of our patrons. Given tight budgets and all, I'll not pick out some obscure book I want to read and have us order it. I'll hope a larger library with more bucks gets it and I'll read it in six months when it comes off the new book shelf. I'm never wanting for something to read. There's a lot out there.
It came as a surprise, then, when I opened the newest crate of books and got excited about a trio of books, two of which I signed out immediately. This was the first. The name Don Winslow might be familiar to you because it wasn't too long ago that I reviewed Savages. I was surprised he had a new book out already. Turns out he doesn't. This book was published in 2009. I'm not sure why we bought it but I was glad.
This was quite a bit different from Savages is tone and content. Yes, there was still drugs involved (I know, shocking, right?). Yes, it was still fast-paced with short chapters. Still jumped around from character to character although the focus was really on one. This time, though, very few profanities. I enjoyed it and while Winslow isn't a creator of great literature, he writes entertaining stories. I definitely recommend him for those looking for lighter "beach reads".
Beach read is appropriate for The Gentlemen's Hour in that the book takes place on the coast of sunny San Diego. The main character, Boone Daniels, is a noted surfer and somewhat lackadaisical private investigator in his forties. He and his buddies are always up bright and early to surf and their group is known as the Dawn Patrol. His buddies all have Guy Ritchieesque ironic nicknames. The gigantic Samoan is known as High Tide because the waters rise when he gets in. There's Hang Twelve who has six toes on each foot. Johnny Bonzai is an Asian cop. There used to be a waitress named Sunny who surfed with them but then she turned pro. The waitress who replaced her came to be known as Not Sunny. Sort of goofy and charming all in one.
Boone has been dating this hot lawyer with violet eyes (have you ever met anyone with violet eyes? I haven't. Maybe it's a California thing) but his buddies think it won't last because of the socio-economic differences. You have to have a love interest, though. It's in the PI novel handbook, I think.
The Gentlemen's Hour is when the group of surfers after the Dawn Patrol surf. That group is composed of older wealthy guys; guys with nowhere else to be because the golf course isn't really them. One of the members of The Gentlemen's Hour hires Boone to follow the guy's wife to see if she is being unfaithful.
Meanwhile, one of the most popular surfers around gets killed outside a bar by a bunch of punk kids. Boone's girlfriend is hired to represent the one kid being charged with the murder and she enlists Boone's help. Boone's friends turn on him for this breach in surfing brotherhood.
The cases get all twisty and involved. There's drugs, including a Mexican cartel. There's a Naziesque skinhead organization, there's insurance fraud. There's a fellow who Boone got arrested years ago who has his Mutt and Jeff henchman alternately rough Boone up and take care of him. It really gets out of hand and nonsensical at times.
It's exciting, though. I blew through the book. Didn't want to put it down. Winslow is a former PI and you sort of get a sense he is a former/current surfer and has gone through/is going through a mid-life crisis. What I mean is, the story has the details right. Maybe Winslow just does good research but the surfer lingo and PI methodologies seem really smooth and natural.
A fun read, definitely more accessible than Savages, with characters you can actually root for. The cockamamie plot twists take a bit away from it but it's not nutty enough to make it completely unbelievable.