Tuesday, 8 June 2010


Boone Daniels, surfer and private eye, is back for a second novel, and The Gentleman's Hour is every bit as good as The Dawn Patrol (you can find my Crime Time review of that book here). This time, Boone is drawn into two cases, neither of which he wants--one in which he's supposed to help the self-confessed killer of a local surfing legend and father figure, and the other where one of the Gentleman's Hour surfers (the guys who come after the working men on the Dawn Patrol have left) who suspects his wife is having an affair wants Boone to investigate; sleazy divorce work makes Boone feel uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, Boone's trying to work out his relationship with Petra, the English lawyer who appeared in The Dawn Patrol just as Boone's old flame Sunny Day disappeared to go on the pro surf tour. Issues of committment are difficult for men committed to the surf, and Boone soon fines himself caught between Petra's law firm, defending the accused killer, and his surf buddy Johnny Banzai, the cop who got his confession.

It's a nicely complicated plot, and if one of its main twists seems fairly obvious, and helped by Boone's polite refusal to listen to his incriminating adultery tapes, Winslow handles it with a certain amount of brio, including local gang boss Red Eddie and Mexican drug lords (if you remember Winslow's brilliant The Power Of The Dog you'll know he knows whereof he speaks on that subejct).

But what makes The Gentleman's Hour work is the way Winslow's narration catches perfectly the laid-back nature of Boone and his milieu. It's accomplished through a flexible third-person voice, something completely different in tone than the dark confusions of Power Of The Dog, or the nostalgic pace of Isle Of Joy (see my review of that one here) and it's all the more impressive for that. Winslow is able to adapt form to function, and it makes it very easy to identify with Boone, to accept his world view, and to laugh with his world, where Sunny's replacement at the Sundowner bar is simply known as 'Not Sunny', and where the San Diego underworld is only marginally more evil than the property developers and speculators.

Winslow's new drug cartel novel Savages, which came out in the USA in April, has been optioned by Oliver Stone, with Winslow working with him on the screenplay. His earlier novel, The Winter Of Frankie Machine, has been in development with Robert De Niro's Tribeca Films, originally with Martin Scorsese mooted to direct, but now apparently set to go with Michael Mann; Winslow apparently was not involved with either of the screenplay versions.

Winslow may be the most versatile of the elite crime writers in America, and I have no hesitation in putting him among the elite, he's that good. It's also interesting that his earlier, Neal Carey series, despite the first one being nominated for a first-novel Edgar, failed to make an impact. But after so many outstanding stand-alones, Winslow seems to have found a perfect change of pace series now. And I'm looking forward to the third Boone Daniels book, which must be coming, as much as to Savages.

The Gentleman's Hour by Don Winslow Arrow £7.99 ISBN9780099527565

NOTE: This review will also appear at www.crimetime.co.uk

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