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Savages: A Novel Hardcover – July 13, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 305 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Spare, clipped expository prose and hip, spot-on dialogue propel this visceral crime novel from Winslow (The Dawn Patrol). The future is looking good for Laguna Beach, Calif., marijuana growers Ben and Chon, until they receive an ominous e-mail from the Baja Cartel. Attached is a photograph showing the decapitated bodies of other independent drug dealers. The message is clear: sell your product through us or else. Ben and Chon try to resist, but matters escalate after cartel thugs abduct Ophelia, the guys' beautiful young playmate and accomplice, and hold her for a cool million ransom. Meanwhile, Elena "La Reina" Sanchez Lauter, the leader of the Baja Cartel, must deal with rival drug gangs and potential overthrow from within. Ben and Chon propose a trade that Elena can't refuse, setting the stage for the violent and utterly satisfying ending. Winslow's encyclopedic knowledge of the border drug trade lends authenticity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ben and Chon are two Americans running a lucrative marijuana operation out of ritzy Laguna Beach, California. Their business is buzzing along nicely until members of the Mexican Baja Cartel decide they want a piece of the action. Ben, a charitable, environmentally conscious Berkeley grad, doesn’t want any trouble. Former Navy Seal Chon prefers peace as well but not if it means giving up primo weed. When Ben and Chon resist the Mexicans’ demands, the cartel kidnaps “O” (short for Ophelia), the boys’ close confidante and frequent bedroom playmate. Ben and Chon conjure clever schemes to outwit their adversaries and win back O, using everything from improvised explosive devices to Letterman and Leno masks. Edgar nominee and Shamus winner Winslow, who first evoked the violent world of the Mexican drug cartels in the best-selling narco-thriller Power of the Dog (2005), dispenses short chapters that drive his plot breathlessly forward. He also serves up plenty of savage wit. After Ben dons a Gerald Ford disguise for one of the pair’s heists, he smacks his head against the car door, quipping, “I’m a method hijacker.” Riddled with bullets and splattered with blood, Savages is not for the squeamish, but it’s a must for Winslow fans. --Allison Block
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439183368
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439183366
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (305 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Winslow has been compared to Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard for his hip novels of Southern California and the sly wit of his writing. But anyone who has read The Power of the Dog will understand this author's grasp of politics and culture, appropriately cynical about the nature of bureaucracy, the war on drugs and the folly and waste of it all, as played out in his two protagonists in Savages: Ben and Chonny. Ever the idealist, Ben chooses to walk away when the Baja Cartel makes a move on their hugely lucrative marijuana business. But like the flip side of a coin, Chon is more pragmatic, understanding that acquiescence will be mistaken for weakness. The pair is at an impasse until the involvement of their friend, Ophelia, makes it impossible to embrace the way of the temperate.

In his inimitable staccato style, Winslow blows through the consciousness of the three friends and the simian brain of the Baja Cartel, who can only be met with similar force. The result, while often hilarious, is ultimately tragic, when the way to power is only through savage methods. Winslow makes pithy and poignant comments on our So Cal version of civilization, with an unwavering eye and an acerbic sense of justice. It's always a pleasure to read a local author's perceptions of the all-too-familiar places in my city and neighboring jurisdictions, as familiar to me as Ben and Chon's lives are unfamiliar (but accessible thanks to Winslow). That is Winslow's gift: like it or not, you gain entry into his world, beautiful, sleek, troubled and decidedly more often than not, savage. Luan Gaines/2010.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the best kept secrets in America today is author, Don Winslow. Like the writer, Joe R. Lansdale, it seems that only a fraction of the readers in this country know about Don. That's about to change. The next twelve months will bring Don Winslow to the forefront for fiction readers to see with the publication of Savages and then Satori in March of 2011. Savages is already in the process of being turned into a movie by Oliver Stone with a screenplay by Winslow, and Satori will be the sequel, or prequel, to the famous espionage thriller, Shibumi, which was written by the late, great Trevanian back during the early eighties. I managed to nag an advance copy of both books, and I can tell you that as a forty-year fan of Trevanian, Don Winslow has captured the author's style of writing perfectly in just the first ten pages. Let me also mention that Winslow is the author of the "Neal Carey" detective series, Isle of Joy, The Life & Times of Bobby Z (which was turned into a movie), The Power of the Dog, The Winter of Frankie Machine (Robert De Niro is making that into a film), California Fire and Ice, and The Dawn Patrol. All of the novels have proven to be excellent in scope and writing style (Winslow changes writing styles with almost every book--he's like a chameleon) and storyline, not mention character development. This author is a master of the written word much like Nicholai Hel in Satori is the master of death.

Now, what about Savages?

This is the story of two Laguna Beach bums who know how to make and distribute the best home-grown marijuana in the country. These guys have it made and are sitting on top of the world, until the Mexican Baja Drug Cartel decides it wants to take over their business. That's when everything hits the fan, figuratively speaking.
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Format: Hardcover
I regard myself as a fan of Don Winslow. In my view, this is by far the most disappointing book that he has written recently. Although focusing, as many of his books do, on the complicated relationship between the United States and Mexico (particularly in the context of the war on drugs) this book has nowhere near the depth of other titles such as "Power of the Dog." Unfortunately, it also lacks likeable characters of the type featured in "Bobby Z" or in the Boone Daniels books. The novel is short, and the never-ending coolness grates. Although not totally irredeemable, compared to his other books, "Savages" fails on most levels.
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The thing about existentialism is this: at its core, it's really about hope. The hope that there is good in the world, that it's possible to prevail with one's beliefs and values and, well, goodness. But deep inside, you know there isn't a chance it'll all work out that way. Southern California was always about hope: bright, sunny, cheery hope, the promised land where anybody could make good. Maybe even become a movie star if you didn't get crudded up and corrupted along the way. But L.A. has a heart of noir because the predators knew it was the place to find the Candides. Watch "Chinatown," "Sunset Boulevard," "Mulholland Drive." Read Nathaniel West's "Day of the Locust," "the Blue Dahlia," anything by Chandler.

Enter Don Winslow, whose distinctive voice and compelling plot line make for a stay-up-late novel, "Savages." Ben is the Candide of Candides, who thinks raising the best ganja on earth makes it possible for him to help the poor of the world. Standing is stark contrast is his best friend and partner, Chon [great nickname for the blandness of John], whose view of the world is only of its noir underbelly. Give them both the same girlfriend, Ophelia [in some delectable lovemaking scenes] and a vicious Mexican drug cartel and you've got a plot to, um, well, die for.

But what really makes this novel stand out for me is the brilliant writing. There are a few hundred scribblers out there writing similar stories without a shred of literary talent or panache. Winslow has both, in spades. "Savages" has been crafted, word by word, sentence by sentence, to create a vivid, sexy, sometimes humorous, often sardonic, at times brutal, but always compelling story.
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