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The Winter of Frankie Machine (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – September 4, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Elmore Leonard fans who have not yet discovered Winslow (The Power of the Dog) will be delighted by his fourth thriller with its sympathetic antihero. Frank Machianno, a retired mob hit man known as Frankie Machine as a tribute to his efficiency, has put his past behind him and is living a tranquil life in San Diego running a bait shop and supplying restaurants with linens and seafood. When the son of a local mob boss asks for his backup in resolving a dispute with the Detroit mob, Frank agrees, only to find that he's been set up as the intended victim of a hit. Using his survival skills and street smarts, the executioner follows a trail of bodies to identify which of his past crimes has caught up with him. While the plot is familiar, Winslow has created plausible characters and taut scenes of suspense that will keep readers turning pages. Author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Frank Machianno thought he had quit the Mob for good. The 62-year-old Vietnam vet has settled into a quiet life in his native San Diego: operating a bait shack on Ocean Beach Pier, running three other local businesses (all on the up-and-up), and catching a set of waves every chance he gets. But Frank's sharpshooting skills are legendary (he wasn't called "The Machine" for nothing), and when the head of the Los Angeles syndicate calls in a favor, he finds himself back in the game. Turns out Frank was set up, but it's too late to change course; he's already neck-deep in the world of the thick-necked. Winslow, a longtime private investigator, is no stranger to society's underbelly; his past thrillers-- including The Death and Life of Bobby Z (1997) and The Power of the Dog (2005)--vividly evoke the worlds of drugs, dirty politics, and organized crime. Although Winslow visits well-traveled Mafia terrain, his writing has a crisp, cinematic quality that refreshes the subject matter and will appeal to fans of Elmore Leonard (without alienating the Mario Puzo camp). No surprise that film rights have been sold to Robert De Niro; the actor, who earned an Oscar for his performance in The Godfather: Part II, is set to produce and star. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
  • Paperback: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277664
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Griffiths on October 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If "The Power of the Dog" and "California Fire and Life" were not enough to prove the talent and versatility of Don Winslow, then this hard-hitting and intelligently plotted tale of life in the Southern California mob should put any doubts to rest. This is a no-nonsense epic of crime, of loyalties honored and trusts broken. Frankie Machine, like his creator, has serious chops. And if this isn't one of the best books of 2006, well, I guess then I'm reading from the wrong lists.

Frank Machianno is a 60-something small businessman in San Diego, a simple working guy balancing his bait shop business with three other part time jobs. A doting father to his pre-Med daughter. A loving boyfriend to a gorgeous former Vegas showgirl. A former US Marine sniper extraordinaire. A steadfast handyman for his ex, and still surfing after all these years. Everybody loves "Frank the bait guy."

And "Frankie Machine" is a retired hit man - a mafia button man of legend - a stone cold killer with principals: "I'd never kill a civilian - only other players."

But when the local mob boss and Detroit's Vince Vena lure Frankie into a trap, he begins a stroll down a bloody memory lane that crosses four decades and stretches between San Diego and Las Vegas while trying to figure which of several eligible candidates has waited till now to want him dead. And a colorful stroll it is, traveled by an eclectic mix of characters on both sides of the law, the shrewd and the stupid, friends true and traitorous, of relationships forged and broken. But most of all, it is a lane clogged with violence meted out by Frankie's steady hand, sometimes for vengeance, others "simply as business.
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Format: Hardcover
THE POWER OF THE DOG and THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE have secured Don Winslow's place among the world's great crime writers. The former is epic in its influences and urgings; the latter is less ambitious but no less effective. The novel is the most pliable of forms; in his new novel Winslow's model is autobiography rather than epic, but this personal story carries larger cultural freight because Frankie is a retired Mafia hit man. His story is more than a personal account; it is also the story of the west coast mob and its relation to its older, more powerful midwestern and eastern antecedents.

The writing is pitch perfect; I wouldn't change a word. The key to the story is the central character and he is delightful in both his canny complexity and his dependable, standup simplicity. The role will be a delicious one. If DeNiro somehow changes his mind, one can imagine Gene Hackman or some other contemporary master relishing the chance to bring Frankie to life on the big screen. The constituent parts are all there: a great story, a great character, and a great theme--the old mob vs. the new and the attendant reflections it invites on larger issues of time, history, loss, and the shrinking possibilities of survival and redemption.

The Elmore Leonard influences--which others have noted--are clear, but Winslow's work is in no way derivative. He's simply working the same turf in his own sweet way. If Winslow isn't on your list of must-read, must-buy-in-hardcover writers, he should be.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I think Don Winslow is a terrific writer. But Frankie Machine never convinced me as a character. I never understood just how this faithful, ethical, hardworking son, loving father, raised on the far-from-mean streets, and beaches, of SanDiego became a Mafia hit man. And he seems to take his hit-contracts casually, without much reflection as he builds his rep. The boss gives him a wink and he toddles off to "put two" in the back of some guy's head. Then he goes back to the pier and sponsors a kid's fishing contest.

And the ending devolves into a TV-style shootout and a final twist that you could see coming a mile away. I have some problems with the credibility of the ending, too, but I won't spoil it.

Other than what I consider an unbelievable main character and a contrived ending, the book is a fun read, and skips along from beach to desert and back meeting interesting characters along the.way, all of whom are more credible than Winslow has made Frankie.

As a retired cop, I do like how Winslow paints his mobsters in shades of gray. He shows the ambiguity that exists, among and between, mobsters, businessmen, cops and politicians. A lot of floating happens between those roles and there's very little honor among any of them, not just the thieves.

I don't want to pan this book too much. You'll enjoy it. It's just that I've come to expect so much from Don Winslow.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is possibly the most enjoyable of Don Winslow's crime novels. Frankie is a completely believable character and his evolution from beginning to end has an inevitableness to it, yet every step brings fresh interesting incidents.
If you know anything about the history of the Mafia in Southern California, and particularly if you grew up here and know some of the stories of the Mob in San Diego, a lot of this feels like actual non-fiction history with some of the names changed to protect the guilty (and protect Winslow from libel lawsuits, of course). I had a lot of fun trying to replace fictional names with the real ones - some are obvious (there is a reason that the "La Costa" resort in Carlsbad was called "La Costa Nostra" by a lot of San Diegans in the 60's-70's).
Frankie himself is a smart, "too cool for school" semi-retired mobster - the kind of guy you wouldn't mind drinking with (or surfing with) - if you didn't know his full history. Even after you know his history, you will still be pulling for him to make it through the worst time of his life.
Highly recommended.
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