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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. LOVED IT!
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...
Published on June 22, 2012 by S. Mcbeth

versus
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not so much
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...
Published on June 24, 2012 by michael saitta


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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not so much, June 24, 2012
By 
michael saitta (Laguna Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. LOVED IT!, June 22, 2012
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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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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Savages, June 20, 2012
This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
Ever since I finished "Savages," I wanted more of Ben and Chon and O's world. This prequel is a perfect companion, written in the same clever, breakneck writing style that turned some people off of "Savages," but that I loved. Even better than Ben and Chon's first forays into the dope business are the flashbacks of their parents' generation, one that fleshes out Winslow's world with a few nods to loyal readers who may pick up characters like Bobby Z and Frankie the Machine popping up in 60's, 70's and 80's Laguna. With more twists than the relentless, breakaway sprint that was "Savages," and a neat wrap up that ties both timelines together, I think Winslow has outdone himself with "Kings of Cool." Can't wait for the movie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than Savages, October 1, 2012
By 
J. Norburn (Quesnel, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (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. Fans of the author will note the cameo appearances of characters like Bobby Z from other novels.

Winslow clearly conducted considerable research before he wrote The Power of the Dog, and while the research may not have been as extensive for lighter fare like Kings of Cool, the reader gets a sense that Winslow knows the history of the San Diego drug trade and surfer culture inside and out.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don does it again!, June 19, 2012
By 
Bordeaux Dogue (Lisboa, Portugal) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
The creator of Frankie ( one of the most beautifull novels I've had the pleasure of reading in years ) of the Power of the Dog Masterpiece and of the Dawn Patrol pack ( among others, with Bobby Z coming to mind ), comes back with a punch of a prequel to those adorable Savages, done in the same ground breaking writing style and story telling he offered us with Savages.

What a book! How magical the sudden, terse, irritating and ' to hell with it' prose, this guy weaves.

I, for one, love the way, in bursts, in which the Savages and, now, Kings of Cool, is conveyed.

By all means, give it a go! And if you like it, feel good, beause there are a lot of Don Winslow's novels waiting for you in the near future!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Back to the well, October 23, 2012
This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
Returning to his biggest success in years, "Savages", Don Winslow makes the trip backwards from that book to tell the story of how Ben, Chon and O got together in the first place, how they began their business, and a history of the Southern California (SoCal) drug trade starting in the 60s and which inexplicably involves all of their parents.

While I'm excited whenever Winslow puts out a new novel, I was surprised to see he had written a prequel to "Savages" rather than a sequel. What needed to be established prior to that novel? It seemed fairly contained. Having now read it, I'm again struck with the question - why? And then another thought appeared: he's run out of ideas.

"The Kings of Cool" is basically a greatest hits summary of Winslow's writing career. The drugs trade in SoCal has been covered in his far better novel "The Power of the Dog"; the surfer elements in the book have been written about in "The Gentlemen's Hour" and "The Dawn Patrol"; there are cameos by both Frank Machianno (from "The Winter of Frankie Machine") and Bobby Z (from "The Death and Life of Bobby Z"); and the protagonists are from "Savages".

Nobody writes SoCal fiction better than Winslow - he's got the drugs scene from the latter half of the 20th century down cold and he's a surfer himself so he gets that culture - but doing it again in "The Kings of Cool" feels uninspired and pointless. Why go backwards? Why not write a sequel to "Savages" and go into territory he hasn't written about before - the drugs trade and the War on Drugs in 2012? It feels cowardly and lazy to fall back on material he knows about well because he's spent years writing that same material over and over again, only to rehash (pun intended) it again in a "new" novel. Not to mention cynical as "Savages" sold well and was turned into a film - he's probably hoping that success carries over onto this book too so he can get more Hollywood dough.

Like "Savages", the writing style is frenetic and imaginative, some "chapters" are a few words long (there are almost as many pages as there are chapters) with some chapters taking the form of poetry or appearing across the page in arbitrary places; some scenes are presented as if lifted from a shooting script. It makes for a fast read and I do appreciate when an author tries - and succeeds - at combining style with story, even if you have heard the story before.

I liked "The Kings of Cool", it was enjoyable for the most part even if I thought that reading about Ben, Chon and O's parents' lives was pointless. The story is a bit weak in places, it's basically about hippies slowly becoming more involved in drug dealing - it isn't nearly as thrilling as "Savages" where there were warring cartels and a hostage plot. Plus you know Ben, Chon and O make it through any obstacles in this book because this is a prequel and they're alive and well in the next book so there's no real tension. If you want to read a book about the SoCal drugs scene in the 1960s onwards, give this a go, though I recommend Winslow's more accomplished novel "The Power of the Dog" which is about the same thing. Overall I feel "The Kings of Cool" was a bit of a wasted opportunity on Winslow's part - he could've gone forward with something new but decided to go back with something old.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light and Cool, July 3, 2012
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This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
I enjoyed this book despite myself. I usually like novels with straight-ahead stories and more psychology (three-dimensional characters). Kings of Cool is not that type of narrative.

The author, at times, casts aside narrative momentum (until the end). He moves back and forth in time -- the 1960s, 1970s... into the 2000s. The temporal jumps and the number of parallel narrative threads fragment the drama and distance the reader from the central conflict. In addition, unusual sentence fragments, parenthetical raps, odd digressions, clever language, and chapters as movie scripts call attention to the author-narrator, not a central, dramatic conflict. So the story line failed to absorb me until the end.

Why did I enjoy the book? The language -- the jazz riffs of words, and the humor.

What was this novel? To me, its pull was not as a thriller or crime drama. Rather its draw was humor. It was, essentially, a light comedy with guns.

Was it deep? No. The characters were cartoonish. Chon -- the macho, ultra-cool, totally unafraid, loyal, super-smart, girl-magnet -- fits the genre and could have jumped out of Elmore Leonard, who was Winslow's hero. The characters were wise-asses -- sarcastic, glib, and funny. They gave the author plenty of opportunity to amuse us with word play.

Was it worth reading? Definitely. It was a lot of clever fun.

Will you think about it ten years from now? I won't.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read Thriller, July 2, 2012
This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (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. His bare prose and timely observations provide a contemporary edge that breathes life into this unconventional tale. The characters are so convincing that you can't help but root for theses drug dealing criminals to beat out their competitors. The two story lines seamlessly weave together, all driving towards an ending with the perfect amount of twist and resolution. I thought that perhaps with all of the praise that "Savages" received, Winslow was somehow pressured into writing another novel with the same characters. Fortunately, he avoided the traps that many series authors fall in to, creating a story that felt naturally conceived and executed flawlessly. I understand that the subject matter and the way it is presented may be unappealing to some, but for those looking for a thriller that is a bit outside of their normal reading habits, this is a must read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars mixed - but read it anyway, July 2, 2012
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This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
OK, I really enjoyed this book. Savages was my first exposure to Don Winslow and I thought it was utterly remarkable. I then read several of his novels, and some are very, very good (The Dawn Patrol, The Gentleman's Hour) but closer to the classic detective genre. The Winter of Frankie Machine is terrific, and features an anti-heroic protagonist, which came a little closer to the promise of Savages but lacked its pure kinetic energy. Power of The Dog started out extremely well, but in the end felt a little bloated. Perhaps the novel was a victim of its own ambition. So, The Kings of Cool; closer to Savages narrative style than the rest of Winslow's bibliography and in many ways a tighter take on parts of Power of The Dog, but lacking the former's blunt force. Lots of coincidence, back-story and convergence, maybe making the narrative unnecessarily neatly packaged...but perhaps readers (and film go-ers) prefer this. So, should your read it? Yes, definitely. But it falls a little short of the 'what just happened?' quality that made Savages so great.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) "Everything hinges on not selling dope to people you don't know.", June 19, 2012
This review is from: The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages (Hardcover)
In a series of short, punchy chapters, Winslow delivers the prequel to Savages, focusing on the early days of his three protagonists, Ben, Chon and O(phelia), as they cut their youthful teeth on the streets of Laguna Beach, California. From the 1960s to 1981 to 2005, Bobby Z and the beginning of The Association, Raymond "Doc" Halliday (Taco Jesus), bookstore owners and purveyors of blotter acid, Stan and Diane, skateboarder entrepreneurs, the influx of the violent Baja Cartel and the inception of Ben and Chon's hydroponic supergro operation, the novel is teeming with personalities and conflicting intentions, self-made Ben and Chon able to live like the wealthy lawyers and plastic surgeons that skim off the cream and despoil the innocence of California's beach communities. In a format similar to Savages, the back story of The Kings of Cool evolves, the contemporary surfer-businessmen in conflict with The Powers That Be and the ubiquitous enforcers of the Baja Cartel making a move on the lucrative action.

Maybe the only way to tell this story in relevant terms is to dress it up, like a nose job and a designer wardrobe on the same moldy corruption, but it's still the ugly tale of drugs and profit turning nature's bounty into a thug's paradise. The bottom line: people want their drugs and will not be denied. Either buyers indulge in the familiar, high-grade quality Ben and Chon offer or invite the sharks for breakfast, including the trademark threat and violence of the Baja Cartel, the brutal terrain of Mexican drug wars polluting the coast with sheen of wealth and respectability. Lipstick on a pig. Since his hard-hitting The Power of the Dog, Winslow's examination of the crisis has expanded, only the style changing with the times- and the shortened attention spans of technically-sophisticated audiences.

The modern-day Supergro Robin Hoods do it with style and their own set of rules (Ben the "paci" and Chon the "fist" in "pacifist"), O obsessed with searching for her birth father. And while there is a new set of villains, Old School and New, the theme remains the same: the threat of yet another takeover. Whether in modern novel or quasi-screenplay, Winslow knows his material. But I enjoyed Winslow's contemporary thrillers more before the deluge of trendy initials in lieu of phrases (ODB, OGR, etc) and one-word expletive chapters, though, all things considered, many of these characters don't warrant deeper presentation, interchangeable cutouts of corrupt agents, enforcers, drug dealers and the soulless humanoids that have fooled most observers with surgically-enhanced, polished exteriors. Action. Gunshots. A pile of dead bodies, deals made with law enforcement, the game goes on. Family ties aside, the players keep on playing. Even the iridescent waves breaking on a sandy beach become nothing more than a prop for a downward-spiraling civilization. Luan Gaines/2012.
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The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages
The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages by Don Winslow (Hardcover - June 19, 2012)
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