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The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages Hardcover – June 19, 2012

158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A fast, fun, smart jazz-riff of a book, a prequel to Savages and every bit as good. . . . What sets Winslow apart in the crowded field of crime/mystery/thriller writers is the white-knuckled way he writes and thinks. The dialogue is sharp and funny, full of knowing nods to pop culture, history and geography. . . . A frenzied ride into the heart of what family and love and loyalty mean.” —John Wilkens, San Diego Union-Tribune

“Mr. Winslow’s keen attention to drug culture isn’t going to keep readers away from him. He’s too damn good to be polarizing. His characters are smart about their self-interest. His dialogue is tight, laconic and razor sharp; if Elmore Leonard or Lee Child discovered surfing, they might sound something like this.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Don Winslow's crackerjack Laguna Beach thriller The Kings of Cool . . . gives background and back story to Mr. Winslow's novel Savages, published in 2010 and just made into a film by Oliver Stone. . . . It's a treat to trace the crossings of this trio's paths with those of other characters over the years. . . . One way or another, they scheme and tough their way through this often gruesome, sometimes witty saga and into the future fates already devised for them.” —Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal

“Blistering . . . Winslow serves up nonstop action, tempering the tension with his trademark razor-sharp wit. . . . This cool, clever entry is sure to be a royally popular summer read.” Booklist (starred review)

“Blazing . . . Studded with the same sharp, lean dialogue and quick-witted calculation [as Savages].” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This adrenaline-fused collision of generations . . . is another Winslow roller-coaster thriller.” Library Journal (starred review)

About the Author

Don Winslow is the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of seventeen novels, including The Cartel, The Kings of Cool, Savages, The Gentlemen’s Hour, The Dawn Patrol, The Winter of Frankie Machine, and The Power of the Dog. He lives in Southern California. To learn more, follow Don on Twitter at or visit

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451665326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451665321
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Don Winslow (b. 1953) is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen crime and mystery novels as well as short stories and film screenplays. A Cool Breeze on the Underground, Winslow's debut and the first novel in his popular Neal Carey series, was nominated for an Edgar Award. Before becoming a fulltime writer, Winslow worked as a private detective in New York and California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By michael saitta on June 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even though I was disappointed with KINGS there is a great article about Mr. Winslow in a local Orange County CA weekly newspaper. Their website has the full story [...]
First of all I am a great fan of Mr. Winslow. I even sent a message to his blog that Laguna Beach should name a street after him. His CALIFORNIA FIRE AND LIFE is one of my all time favorite books. That being said - I was really disappointed in this book. Not that it's bad or that a reader would not enjoy it but to me the big mystery is how this book came about. Was it all part of SAVAGES and somewhere along the line the early part of the story was dropped to concentrate on the latter? Was that because KINGS OF COOL takes so much from ORANGE SUNSHINE -a true recounting of the drug culture in Laguna Beach during the 60s and 70s? Or, was writing this book a quick way to cash in on the upcoming movie? Whatever the story, it's below Mr. Winslow's standards and much more work should have been done on the book before it's release. It seems incomplete. Take the Kim character. She is introduced and developed into a really interesting person then almost dropped except for some cryptic references on what happens to her. I didn't like the parts that looked like a film script. It looked like a cut/paste/copy attempt to get the book completed. Mr. Winslow's editors probably share more of the blame for this than the author. I am not an author, not a publisher therefore I apologize for my attempt to downplay this book in any way but, I am a reader, and I felt cheated. Sorry, Mr. Winslow. Still look forward to the next one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Norburn on October 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Don Winslow. Winslow is an unusual author in that his writing style changes to accommodate each of his novels. Reading Kings of Cool, a prequel to Savages, you would never guess that it was written by the same author who wrote The Power of the Dog. The Power of the Dog is an ambitious novel that is epic in scope and a powerful tour de force. Kings of Cool, like Savages, is lighter fare, and the writing style reflects it. The prose here is sparse and casual and is filled with wordplay that some might find gimmicky and others might find clever. I'm one of the latter.

Kings of Cool, like Savages, is a breezy but brutal novel about a pair of Laguna Beach Bums who create a successful business growing and distributing marijuana to a discerning cliental. I liked Kings of Cool more than I liked Savages (I gave that novel 3 stars and a mixed review). Kings of Cool provides the backstory, not only for how the characters in Savages meet and start up their business but provides a history of the Laguna Beach drug scene starting in the sixties and seventies. The novel alternates between Chon and Ben's story and the tale of Taco Jesus and the early days of the San Diego drug scene and, as you might imagine, the two story lines inevitably converge in unexpected ways.

This is, by any reasonable measure, a pretty entertaining novel. The pages turn quickly and there is plenty of action to keep things moving. The prose is lean and mean as Winslow deftly provides insightful social commentary with a simple turn of phrase or play on words. Yes, some of the novel's plot developments are a little contrived but not in a way that infuriates the reader, but rather in a way that has the reader marvel at how neatly (if not improbably) the stories come together.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By S. Mcbeth on June 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I kicked my legs up and down the bed and yelled, "No!" like a little kid when the book was over. I wanted more. It was superbly written with an excellent, compelling and titillating plot line.

I have to admit that I was a bit worried that the prequel would not be able to measure up to the original Savages but I'm happy to say, it actually exceeded greatly beyond my expectations and I'm tempted to say it was better.

This one definitely also deserves its own movie. I don't know what's next on Winslow's list in terms of novels but I'm eagerly awaiting his next installment. He is a masterful writer and I'm smitten. I'm so happy for his success; it's so deserving.

Chon stole the show. For those of you in love with his character, wait 'till you see him in action in this book.

This was definitely a page turner and for those of you who are turned off by the idea of going back to explore the past in books: don't be. This story was absolutely engrossing. You will not be disappointed.

Bravo Don Winslow, once again you've outdone yourself. I'm a huge fan.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ethan on July 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A couple years ago, Don Winslow made waves with his fast and edgy novel, "Savages", in which young drug "entrepreneurs", Ben and Chon, embarked in a war against a Mexican drug group who kidnapped their shared girlfriend, O. It was, arguably, one of the best thrillers of that year and even spawned a film adaptation by director Oliver Stone. Now, Winslow returns to this version of California in a prequel, "The Kings of Cool".

The novel centers on two main stories, one taking place around 2005 and the other beginning in the 1960's. Both portions are presented in alternating sections until the two narratives meet in the latter portion of the book. The 1960's story tells the tale of young Californians experimenting with the various drugs of the time. A few characters, from various backgrounds, discover the potential business opportunities that these drugs posses, and become involved with the drug trade.

In 2005, Ben, Chon and O, are all recent high school graduates. Instead of following the traditional paths of their peers, they grow their own highly potent marijuana. As they become recognized for their superior product, their competitors begin to take notice. They are required to pay a portion of their earnings to their competitors in order to continue selling their drugs (think a kind of business tax). In the course of a couple of weeks, Chon receives orders to take his third deployment to the war in Iraq, O begins to search for her unknown father, and Ben is left to deal with the business. After his competitors murder a couple of his street peddlers, Ben must try to deal with the problem.

"The Kings of Cool" is the best thriller I have read this year. Winslow's unique writing style is the perfect vehicle for a story like this.
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