Last week, author Don Winslow‘s long delayed sequel to his “epic, macking” novel of 2008, The Dawn Patrol, rolled onto U.S. shores. A few of us couldn’t wait for publisher Simon & Schuster to get around to releasing it in the United States, since they’d pushed forward his newer book, Savages, for a 2010 release, instead (which, ultimately, wasn’t a bad thing for those of us who loved it). So, after acquiring the U.K. paperback in 2009, a few of us read and enjoyed the hell out of the follow-up before its official début. Excerpts from those who caught and reviewed this early were pretty universal:
Elyse Dinh-McCrillis (from her review of the book):
“Readers should dive in even if they’re not surfing fans. Don Winslow is so skilled a writer, he could do a dissertation on dirt and make it entertaining. His style is conversational, like having someone in your living room tell you a really good story. His prose is as rhythmic as music, his dialogue crackles like fireworks, his characters are as real as your best friends. Winslow tackles serious subjects but makes you laugh before you realize you’ve been kicked in the heart.And Boone’s not a stereotypical, loner PI; he has great friends. Their bond is deep, making its fracture all the more painful. But that’s why we root for Boone. Anyone can do the right thing when it’s easy, but only a gentleman can do it when it’s nearly impossible.”
Corey Wilde (from his review of the book):
“And it is this complex overlay of work and friendships that is one of the major points of difference between this book and most other SoCal crime fiction. The only other book I know that thoroughly works this particular complication is Crais’s LA Requiem, and if a book can stand comparison to that particular classic then you know you’ve got your mitts on one heckuva story.”
Jen Forbus (from her review of the book):
“While the ocean may not look like it’s doing much in THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR, Winslow is making a huge splash with the return of “Boone freaking Daniels” and his surfing crew: “Dave the Love and War God, Johnny Absolutely Banzai, High Rolling Tide, and Hang Tough Twelve,” not to mention “Loco Ono.” If you enjoyed THE DAWN PATROL, you will love THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR. If you haven’t read THE DAWN PATROL, now’s the time.”
“An amazing book!”
Brian & Christine McCann:
“Brian’s right, only surfbonics will do: EPIC. MACKING, CRUNCHY. :-) A real treat!”
Lesa Holstine (from her review of the book):
“Don Winslow’s powerful novel is a crime novel of society out of control. But, The Gentlemen’s Hour is actually the story of Boone Daniel’s search for answers. Petra Hall sees him as a complicated man, “A Tarzan-like surfer boy who reads Russian novels at night…A disillusioned cynic with barely concealed idealism.” Winslow has taken the detective as knight errant and turned him into a surfer trying to make his world right. Boone Daniels is an unforgettable man in a complicated, fascinating story.”
Now that it’s out, I can’t really add much to what my friends have written about the novel, but agree with their assessments. What I will cover is this listener’s perspective regarding the audiobook that accompanied the release. When I first read the sequel, the characters in the story pulled me right back in — almost as if I never left the sand and sea of good ol’ San Dog (San Diego for the rest of you). Thankfully, this stint with its audio version accomplished the same. As one would expect, the second book in the series didn’t require as much for character back story since it’s not an origin tale. The author’s comfort level with the various personalities immediately shined through and Winslow proceeded to build the story’s tension, suspense, and power.
I can’t help looking back, though. The Dawn Patrol (print published by Knopf ) enjoyed a wonderful unabridged audio adaptation, helped enormously by the production efforts of the Blackstone Audio folk and one stellar read by veteran narrator Ray Porter (who also performed marvelously with Winslow’s magnum opus, The Power of the Dog). So, to see if the continuation works, I re-did TDP and The Gentlemen’s Hour audiobooks in back-to-back sessions. However, before I press on, I recommend a break from the review for audiobook fans to dash over to another blog post because it’ll have relevance to what comes next. I refer you to Dog Eared Copy‘s (aka Tanya Perez) article regarding audiobook series that undergo narrator replacements in The Pink Chair: Changing Horses Mid-Stream . I’ll wait here…
“Audiobook publishers don’t want to do it. Fans of a series don’t like it. But it happens? Why?”
Back? Took you long enough ;-). I found Tanya’s studio manager experience on the subject matter really insightful. And as fate would have it with this review, timely. I guessed some, but the others she listed and detailed were eye-openers of what goes on in the background (most of which audio fans don’t see). Back to the subject at hand, you may or may not be aware Don Winslow switched book publishers and landed with Simon & Schuster a short while back. So Tanya’s last point in her piece came into play here. The series got “picked up by a new audiobook publisher” (Simon & Schuster’s own audio division, in fact). For the reasons stated, a new narrator was cast: Holter Graham (this being his second reading of a Don Winslow novel this year; Satori was the first for Hachette Audio). And whether he knew it for not, he was handed some big shoes to fill.
Sometimes on film, you have actors who really click with roles. Much like Samuel L. Jackson reading any of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue, it feels like lightning in a bottle. Seemingly, a cosmic pairing with great results. Porter reading Winslow’s words made for that kind of tandem, IMO. Ray nailed the surfer vibe and speech rhythm as if he was born to it in his rendition. Plus, his vocalizations, across the region’s different ethnicities (which epitomize The Dawn Patrol‘s membership and the community represented), were remarkably distinguishable. It’s one of the strengths in the audiobook. Still, Holter held is own with The Gentlemen’s Hour production. But yes, moving immediately from TDP to TGH I did experience a bit of narrator shock which made the change quite clear. His narration of the second tale using Don Winslow’s characters from The Dawn Patrol does play differently. However, to his credit, he’s didn’t attempt to channel Ray Porter’s preceding work (a formidable task to overcome, had he tried).
Yet, like Porter, Holter Graham is an accomplished audiobook reader. While his vocal characterizations aren’t as distinct and varied, he knows how to convey the story at hand while showcasing the author’s unique wordsmithing talent and the SoCal dialect his fans have come to know and expect. Ultimately, that’s all you can ask of an audiobook narrator. Though I immediately noted the narrators’ dissimilar styles between these two books in the series, Graham managed to move me as a listener passed the changeover. He kept the story at the forefront with his smooth delivery (which made his narration of Satori a primary asset in that production). In my far-from-expert fan evaluation I believe this audiobook reader’s interpretation of Boone Daniels and company proved successful. And since it follows-up from another great narrator, that’s saying something. You may like one more than the other, but each did their material proud for fans of Don Winslow, I believe.
Earlier, when I first found out Ray Porter wasn’t going to do the sequel’s audiobook narration, given my fondness for The Dawn Patrol, I admit I was prepared not to like the new audiobook. I’m happy to say Mr. Graham convinced me otherwise.