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gentleman's hour

Winslow’s novel has oceanic movementPosted: July 26, 2012

Book Review

By Derryll White

Winslow, Don (2010).  ‘The Gentlemen’s Hour’

Don Winslow is different.  He has a light, floating grasp on the story which goes great with the surfer orientation of his main characters.  He is funny and slightly twisted, both essential elements that I look for in good light reading material.  Winslow also knows how to shape a phrase, bend an idea and introduce a new concept – things that sustain my interest in a novel.

Winslow draws me in because he writes about people and communities I know nothing about.  What does a guy from the Canadian Rockies know about surfing, or San Diego?  I’ve been there and thought it was a Navy town.  But Winslow turns it into a striking metaphor for any town – politics, money, real estate, greed, drugs.

This book moves as the ocean does – swells, recedes, flows, eddies.  The author knows the surfing scene and represents it well.  Some of the descriptive language is striking and the dialogue gave me many smiles, and some outright laughter.  Boone Daniels, the primary character, has the same encounters with women every man has, and the women characters are all believable and essentially honourable.

‘The Gentlemen’s Hour’ reads well from beginning to end.  There are some essential concepts embraced – love, honour, duty to self and others.  Winslow made me think and opened a few personal stumbling blocks for re-evaluation.  I enjoyed the book, liked the writing, and will read more Don Winslow in the future.

Excerpts from the novel:

WATER – Boone is probably more comfortable in the water than on land.  A prenatal surfer in his mother’s womb, the ocean is his church, and he’s a daily communicant.  Working just enough to (barely) support his surfing Jones, his office is a block from the beach.  His home is even closer – he lives in a cottage on a pier over the water, so the smell, sound and rhythm of the ocean are constants in his life.

EARTH – Like water, earth is always moving.  You can’t necessarily see it, you might not feel it, but it’s happening anyway.  Beneath our feet, tectonic plates are shifting, faults are widening, quakes are tuning up to rock and roll.

So that dirt we’re standing on, so-called ‘solid ground?’

It’s moving beneath us.

Taking us for a ride.

Face it – whether we know it or not, we’re all always surfing.

MEN – There’s no crying, ever.  These guys are old school – they think Oprah’s a mispronunciation of music they’d never listen to.  It’s okay to HAVE feelings – like if you’re looking at a photo of your grandchildren – but you can never acknowledge them, and showing  them is WAY over the line.

FREEDOM – You couldn’t stake out a piece of water like it was land you’d bought.  The great thing about the ocean was that it wasn’t for sale, you couldn’t buy it, own it, fence it off – hard as the new luxury hotels that were appearing on the waterside like skin lesions tried to block off paths to the beach and keep them ‘private.’  The ocean, in Boone’s opinion, was the last stand of pure democracy.  Anyone – regardless of race, color, creed, economic status or the lack thereof – could partake of it.

PEOPLE – An odd man, she thinks.  Simplistic on the surface, but extraordinarily complicated below.  A maelstrom of contradictions beneath a placid-seeming sea.  A Tarzan-like surfer boy who reads Russian novels at night.  A devoted glutton of junk food without an ounce of body fat who can grill fish to a turn over an open fire.  A philistine also, who when jollied into it, can talk quite intelligently about art.  A disillusioned cynic with barely concealed idealism.  A man who will desperately sprint away from anything that resembles emotion, but a deeply sensitive soul who might simply be the kindest and gentlest man you’ve ever met.

SYMBIOSIS – Remembers now his mother telling him that she surfed when she was pregnant with him, took him out with her in the gentle waves, dove under water so he could feel the pulse and pull, he in the water of his mother, she in the water of hers.

PERSPECTIVE – Your view is as much a mirror as a window.

SELF WORTH – “You and I were lucky.  At a very early age we found something that we loved, something that made our lives worth living.  And I can’t but believe that if you think your own life is worth living, you value other people’s lives as well.  Not everyone is as lucky as us, Boone.”

SOCIAL CHANGE – It’s the video-game generation – they always think they can hit the re-set button and get a new game.  If nothing is real, if it’s all virtual, then there are no real consequences.

COMMUNITY – Hang Twelve bounds up the stairs.  “I zipped the Arabics, got tags and cribs for every sat reach-out – totally squeezy, tube blast – and went Amish for you.  Foffed?”

Translation: I ran the numbers, Boone dude, and got names and addresses for every cell phone call – it was really easy and very fast – and I printed out a real copy for you.  Happy?

PARANOIA – The small shop is a creepy little place in a strip mall in Mira Mesa, it’s customer base being a few actual PIs, a lot of wannabes, hard core paranoids, and not a few of the grassy knoll, wrap-your-head-in-tinfoil-the-government-is-attacking-you-with-gamma-rays set who won’t buy off the internet because the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security and Barbara Bush are all tracking their downloads.  The store is usually filled with a lot of browsers who just like electronic gadgets and cool spy shit.

RACISM – “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”  ….White supremacist, neo-Nazi, needle-dick, double-digit-IQ, mouth-breathing, bottom-feeding, off-the-chart dismo, sick bullshit.

BUSINESS – What spices were to the early Portuguese navigators, what gold was to the Spanish conquistadors, tobacco to Virginia plantation owners, opium to Afghani warlords, real estate is to Southern California business people. Real estate – land, houses, and business parks – is the bottom-line source of wealth on the golden coastal strip.  It’s the basis for investment, lending, exchange, retail, money-laundering, you name it.


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