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Book Review- “The Gentlemen’s Hour”

I owe legendary comic writer and artist Howard Chaykin a debt of thanks for introducing me to the works of crime writer Don Winslow. Per Chaykin’s suggestion, I started with Winslow’s magnum opus about the drug war, “The Power of the Dog.” It blew me away and to this day it remains one of my favorite books of all time. After that I quickly devoured Winslow’s other output. Some of them weren’t as good as others, but all were enjoyable, especially the last book I read by him “Savages,” which will soon be a feature film.

I did have problems obtaining one of Winslow’s books though, “The Gentlemen’s Hour,” because when it was released it was initially only released in England. I believe it’s since become available in America, but not before I broke down and bought a paperback copy via Amazon UK. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to the “Dawn Patrol,” but I finally finished and I’m left equally puzzled as exactly how I felt about. Not too puzzled though, because I enjoyed “The Gentlemen’s Hour” it was a lot of fun. I’m just not sure how I would rank it in terms of Winslow’s other work

“The Gentlemen’s Hour” is the 2009 sequel to Winslow’s 2008 novel, “The Dawn Patrol” where he introduced the world to ex-cop, and current surfer and private detective Boone Daniels. What made that book fun was the characters and the world they inhabit. Boone and his surfer buddies in the titular “Dawn Patrol” were all believable, well rounded, very likeable, and often very funny characters. The world they inhabit is the Pacific Beach, neighborhood of San Diego. It’s beautiful and sunny, but there are snakes in paradise. The tone of the town and the novel remind me of some of my favorite Southern California detective shows like “Veronica Mars,” and “Terriers.”

In the “Gentlemen’s Hour” Boone is given two cases that force him to confront how dark and dangerous his world is becoming. The first one alienates him from his friends as his Lawyer girlfriend Petra Hall asks him to help prepare the defense of a teenager who murdered a local neighborhood icon. The second case comes when a wealthy former surfer asks Boone to uncover evidence of his wife’s infidelity.

Both case are darker and dangerous than Boone expects and eventually they start to intertwine a little bit. The thorny revelations that Boone uncovers about both cases are interesting, but if I’m going to offer up a critical look at this book I think the pacing was a little off. I think things were a little stretched out. I was never bored with “The Gentlemen’s Hour,” but I wasn’t as engaged as I was with Winslow’s other books. The book maybe could have been a little shorter.

What did work for the book though was the characters. Boone is still a fun, funny and idealistic guy. He spends most of the novel alienated from his friends, but we still get to see their interesting quirks like Cheerful, the older wealthy man who helps Boone balance the books of his detective agency. Plus Boone’s best friend, lifeguard Dave the Love God, is given some time to shine. Boone does spend most the novel though in an antagonistic relationship with his friend and current cop Johnny Kodani AKA Johnny Banzai. It’s a little hearbreaking, but I suppose that was the point.

The other thing that worked was the colorful way in which Winslow described and added things to the world. His history of the Martial arts and MMA, which plays a role in the story was particularly fun and insightful.

So to sum up “The Gentlemen’s Hour” felt like a by the numbers episode of a favorite TV show. It was good and enjoyable, but not as enjoyable as what you’ve come to expect. Still “The Dawn Patrol” didn’t leave me cold. It had a very satisfying and fun conclusion that left me hoping that Winslow will one day revisit the world of Pacific Beach and Boone Daniels.

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