The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

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.

For more information, visit the author's website,,

(week 27, book 31)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow”

  1. This was a wonderful review, really well-written! Great job on that! and woah. Best thriller of the year?! this is so intriguing O_O -runs off to check out Goodreads link- Thanks for sharing another great review, Ethan!

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

    1. Thanks Vivian. I can't say enough good things about this novel.


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