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Tapping the Source: A Novel Paperback – June 19, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451645546
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451645545
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Kem Nunn is one of a rare breed, a novelist who knows how to plot and tell a story. There is amazing energy here.” —Elmore Leonard

About the Author

Kem Nunn is a third-generation Californian whose novels include The Dogs of Winter, Pomona Queen, and Unassigned Territory. Tapping the Source (1984) was nominated for the National Book Award, and his novel Tijuana Straits won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. A graduate of the University of California at Irvine, he lives in Southern California.

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Customer Reviews

CA surfing scene.
Michael Terry
The ending is a bit flat, but this story is a journey, not a destination.
furioustyle77
It is very well written with great character development.
Richard C. Reed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on July 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although this takes the form of a novel about surfing, it is actually a great example of latter day noir, with a touch of mysticism and horror, if you will: Isaac Bashevis Singer meets Raymond Chandler meets Jim Thompson. It's a coming-of-age tale where a young guy faces down a nightmarish criminal sub-culture in order to solve a murder, in prose so clear and hypnotic it's like you are actually hearing it from the very lips of the storyteller. Thriller fans (and just plain lovers of literature) shouldn't miss this.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A reader from Nor Cal on September 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You know you've been somewhat transformed by a story when it's done, and you can't think about anything else for a while. Or start another book.

Ike Tucker is a self-described "hick", a small town kid with very little motivation to escape his circumstances. Then a mysterious stranger shows up one day with information on Ike's sister, Ellen, who left home two years ago and hasn't been heard from since. With little more than a piece of paper with three names on it and a handful of cash, Ike sets out for Huntington Beach, California, to find out what happened to his sister.

Written in limited third person point-of-view, the story is viewed only through Ike's eyes. Yet Nunn does an amazing job of developing the other characters and their arcs. Ike Tucker's journey and transformation is completely engaging, from his introduction into the hard-core surf scene to the moment he becomes a true local. Along the way, Ike loses sight of his goal to the temptations of H.B.'s gritty underworld, and we are sucked in as helplessly as he is. It is only at the end we realize that Ike's derailment is his true path to self-discovery.

Nunn is a master at creating atmosphere. He does an incredible job at rendering setting--the fading buildings, the lost souls, the drugs, and the continual creep of industry encroaching on a California beach town gone to seed.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 31, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I love this book. No matter how many things I read, when I have run out of fiction, I always pick this up -- I can open it anywhere and instantly be in the shadow of the pier or at the Trax Ranch watching the swell and waiting for my wave, in Morris' shop tearing down a Shovelhead, or at Hound's house as the camera whirrs . . . In this first novel Kem Nunn got his pacing just right, and his amazing use of light and sound to capture atmosphere takes surfing out of the sun and into the shadows of the "dark side of the dream." Ike Tucker could have been created by Fitzgerald to tell of Preston Marsh, like a boat against the current beating ceaselessly into the past, or by Salinger, like Holden Caulfield trying to prevent the inexorable. I loved it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Ferrari on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Tapping the Source" might be the quintessence of everything that's right about modern noir. I know that sounds really artsy and pretentious, but it's true. The reason why it's such a great modern noir lays in Nunn's writing, which unloads his story without any self-awareness, something that, by definition, is almost unheard of in traditional noir stories, yet it works so well here.

What it lacks in pretension it makes up in angst, but not in the raw, unadulterated, "I've been listening to too much Kurt Cobain" kind of angst. No, the story's protagonist, Ike Tucker, shows a kind of restricted, almost refined angst as he sifts his way through a crash course in post-pubescent adulthood while searching the ruddy beaches of California for clues about his murdered sister.

What makes this book even cooler is the supporting cast. While Ike is a cool character, developed so precisely that reading about his experience will bring back old hangovers and headaches from your own late teenage years, the real character development happens to the characters that interact and ultimately influence Ike. They're well explained and detailed throughout the story, each of them permanently decaled by the flaws and failures of their life, all of which are brazenly worn on their sleeves.

I could go on forever, because quite frankly, "Tapping the Source" may be my favorite book ever. But I wont, because this is really one of those books that should mean different things to different people, and that sole fact makes it worth picking up.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gary on August 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's a very dark, gritty, hard-hitting mystery that is nearly impossible to put down. But it is also a story that poignantly juxtaposes the beauty and philosophy of surfing against the ugliness, immorality, violence, and loneliness of Huntington Beach. I felt a real sadness for the characters who had experienced the spiritual joy of surfing, but whose lives were now dirty with drugs, pornography, and unfulfilled dreams.

My first thought was that the writing was very much like Raymond Chandler, but without the sarcasm and humor. But then, Chandler wrote in the 1st person, a viewpoint that leaves lots of room for sarcasm and humor, depending on the character. "Tapping the Source" is written in the third person, with omniscient insight into the thoughts of Ike, the protagonist. Even so, Nunn pays homage to the Chandler technique of hard-hitting, efficient prose.

I could identify to some degree with Ike's "Deliverance"-like journey, not because I have lived through anything like it, but because of Kem Nunn's masterful evocation of the emotions and fear that a young innocent would feel. At times, the book got into areas that were almost too dark and repulsive to me. I'm not sure if the passages were overly sensational or true-to-life (like I said, I haven't lived through anything like this).

The book is billed as "The all-time great surfing novel," but "surfing novel" is too restrictive. It implies that only people into surfing would enjoy this book. I have an interest in surfing (especially after seeing "Step Into Liquid"), but have never surfed. That didn't stop me from loving this book. Kem Nunn weaves the surfing theme into the book, not gratuitously, but organically, so that it becomes important to the story. But it isn't so surf-heavy as to put off those who have no interest in surfing.

A great mystery, thriller, and coming-of-age story, written in efficient, evocative, and poetic prose.

I'm going back for more of Kem Nunn.
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