Book Report: The Kings of Cool (Prequel to Savages)

Just to get it in the right format, here’s the title in academic style:  The Kings of Cool:  Prequel to Savages, by Don Winslow.  Since I keep hearing the words “dessert first” lately, and a guy who lives near me actually has a boat called Dessert First, I will just come out and say that it’s better than Savages.  I read this new book more quickly than anything else lately; this is probably a part of my age, and how the book focuses on both kids of the 80’s/90’s and fucked-up hippie parents.  Welcome to my history and pre-history.

But that’s not what it’s about.  The Kings of Cool is about The Power of the DogFrankie Machine, and of course, Savages.  Winslow has built himself a family of characters and locations, much like Elmore Leonard has done with his character Raylan Givens, who can be found on the TV show Justified.  While Ben, Chon, and O are the main characters in Savages and The Kings of Cool, Southern CA, more importantly the rich side of Orange County (Why does everyone forget that Anaheim, the cesspool that surrounds Disneyland, is also in Orange County?), and the valley to the right, are also characters.  You have surfers, dope dealers, random plastic queens, and rich assholes, but they are mere decorations for some of the most expensive beach communities in the country.  Before the TV show, The O.C., we had Anaheim, and people just said Anaheim, shithole, L.A, So-Cal, or Newport Beach…  There were still lots of dope dealers, beaches, surfers, fake boobs, and chuckleheads with Ferraris, but they lived in their “communities,” not a county.  Counties are for Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, greater New York, and West Virginia; nobody else cares.  The counties’ divisions are the domain of a really big community college district–it’s far from glamour…

Anyhoo, O is not Blake Lively, although she may in fact stand around with her mouth open all the time.  Chon is a very probable late-model war vet; I’m sure many will identify.  Ben doesn’t really develop a whole lot in The Kings of Cool; perhaps this is because he’s just not that cool, but he can grow cosmically awesome weed.  Chon is cool, but only if he’s your pal, and does not want to sniper your ass; O is Blake Lively, a girl just waiting for the right guy to have sex with her, or at least who she plays.  What was I saying?  These people are of course not real, but Winslow makes them seem so.

Let’s talk style, because this is where Winslow is really writing his own rules.  The blurbs don’t really go here, but the guy first wrote the best first chapter ever in Savages:  “Fuck You.”  That was it.  Then, he went on to include poetic verse as narration, screenplay format as narration, interminable run-on sentences as narration, and text-speak as narration.  All of this stylistic chaos continues in The Kings of Cool; Winslow pulls it off beautifully, and provides the most awesome next-level version of Elmore Leonard (realism in narration/dialogue) ever; granted, this makes us slightly dumber as a result, but it entertains us better than anything on TV or in a movie.

Hemingway had minimalism, and Elmore Leonard perfected realism.  Don Winslow is perfecting modernism.

I bought the book, at full price, and it was worth it:

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