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The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
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The Dawn Patrol (2008)

by Don Winslow

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“Dawn Patrol” by Don Winslow has all the classic elements of hardboiled mystery fiction. It has the former police officer private detective working out of a battered office with few, if any, clients. It has the local bar where he hangs out. It has the stripper on the run from the local hoods. It has the PI sort of cooperating with the local authorities, but running off on his own because protecting the stripper means skirting the rules and regulations. It has the crew of thugs intent on getting past him.
But, underneath this basic plot line, Winslow does something a little different and this is what sets this book apart and makes it a must- read. He sets this book in sunny, beachy, Pacific Beach (“PB”), San Diego, in the world of the “Dawn Patrol,” that crew of surfers who rise in the early dawn to complete their most important mission of catching the best wave. And, Winslow fills out the story with a cast of characters known primarily by their nicknames, besides Boone Daniels the sometime-PI, there’s Hang Twelve (who really truly has twelve toes to hang onto his board), Dave the Love God (who lifeguards), Sunny Day (whose goal is to be the first female professional surfer to truly surf the monster waves), High Tide, and others.

Winslow weaves into the plot not only the backstory for each of these characters, but a history lesson of San Diego and of the surf culture, going back to the king of surfing, George Freeth, and the Crystal Pier in San Diego. The book describes the development of the counterculture of surfing in the early sixties and the guys who eschewed the 9-to-5 jobs to live in barely functioning shacks, ready to catch the earliest wave. The book also tells the story of how California has changed from the empty highways and burger joints to strip malls and suburban developments and how all but a few dot-com millionaires have been priced out of living near the beaches that spawned the surfing life.

It is a story not just of a lone PI, but of California changing and developing from Beach Blanket Bingo and the Beach Boys into something far different, more crowded, more expensive, and there are hints here that all is not right with the world as beneath the sun and the surf, there is a world of desperate people living in cardboard and tin roof lean-tos in the canyons and gullies, having somehow crossed the border, only to find themselves taken advantage of yet again.

There is an innocence here in the burger joints and bars lining Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, but it is stained with a dirty world that threatens to invade Paradise. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Don Winslow is my newest favorite author. I seldom read popular, contemporary fiction, and only discovered Winslow through the recommendation of an author whom I like. But while I may be a few years late in discovering Don Winslow, I am immensely glad to have enjoyed his work – to a total of three novels so far, all focusing on crime and mystery.

I found his 2008 The Dawn Patrol to be a highly entertaining work of fiction. Protagonist Boone Daniels is a sometimes private eye who hangs out with a clique of California surfers, the "dawn patrol" of the title. Boone is laid-back, unpretentious, and unambitious; once having been a police officer (until he was thrown off the force), he now lives the life of a California surfer, taking on just enough PI jobs to fund his low-key lifestyle. His friends are a bunch of oddball characters -- Sunny Day (who hopes to break into the world of professional surfing), Hang Twelve (so nicknamed in recognition of his 6-toed feet), High Tide, Dave the Love God, Cheerful, Red Eddie, and Johnny Banzai. These are unique and memorable characters, each with a history and a personality of their own.

The Dawn Patrol is driven by these unusual characters as well as an intriguing plot. Boone’s friend, a beautiful attorney names Petra (Pete) Hall, asks him to locate a witness in a case of arson. The case becomes increasingly more complicated, with a murder faked to look like a suicide, an abused young girl, a drug smuggling ring, an as is finally revealed, a child prostitute ring. The humor is rich and plentiful, with several laugh-out-loud scenes, and the suspense is real. The tone turns deeply serious in the last 50 or so pages, and its dark theme seemed somewhat incongruous. But all was tied together in time for a satisfying ending in which Boone returns to his lifestyle.

If you like Elmore Leonard, or other quirky, fast- paced fiction with memorable characters and snappy patter, try out The Dawn Patrol. I almost never award five stars to a book, but in my view, this one deserves such a rating. ( )
1 vote danielx | Jul 2, 2017 |
I couldn't stop listening to this book. I was taken in by the surf lingo, colorful characters, engaging plot, laugh out loud moments, and California surf town history. I started looking into getting the next book in the series (bummed there are only 2) before I was even done with this one. ( )
  she_climber | Mar 3, 2017 |
“Everything tastes better on a tortilla”. With this simple dictum ends “The Dawn Patrol” by Don Winslow. It’s a good ending. The spirit behind this phrase is a wonderful representation of the book’s tone.

The surf culture abounds. I’m not a surf guy. I’m more into scuba-diving. They both rate high on fellowship, kindness, journey, and cooperation, with surfers/scuba-divers helping each other out when they can and working together towards common goals. To make a story out of it is the hard part. Winslow, maybe because he lived the culture himself, is more able to mythify the surf culture. Nowadays the map of myth is lost to us.


The rest of this review can be found on my blog. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Another good read from Don Winslow! This one has a surfer/detective Boone Daniels dealing with the temptation of huge waves on the horizon, and a missing witness for the court. Along with his friends, Sunny Day, Hang Twelve, High Tide, Dave the Love God, Johnny Banzai, Cheerful, Red Eddie, and Petra (Pete) Hall, the action is fast, and the swells furious! I loved all the characters and their bios, and I really enjoyed all the surfing history and info. The whole time I was reading this, I just wanted to cruise down to the Sundowner for a burger and fries. Winslow has become a favorite of mine, and this story did not disappoint! Totally agro! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307266206, Hardcover)

The author of The Winter of Frankie Machine (“another instant classic”—Lee Child) is back with a razor-sharp novel as cool and unbridled as its California surfer heroes, as heart-stopping as a wave none of them sees coming.

Boone Daniels lives to surf. Every morning he’s out in the break off Pacific Beach with the other members of The Dawn Patrol: four men and one woman as single-minded about surfing as he is. Or nearly. They have “real j-o-b-s”; Boone works as a PI just enough to keep himself in fish tacos and wet suits—and in the water whenever the waves are “epic macking crunchy.”

But Boone is also obsessed with the unsolved case of a young girl named Rain who was abducted back when he was on the San Diego police force. He blames himself—just as almost everyone in the department does—for not being able to save her. Now, when he can’t say no to a gorgeous, bossy lawyer who wants his help investigating an insurance scam, he’s unexpectedly staring at a chance to make some amends—and take some revenge—for Rain’s disappearance. It might mean missing the most colossal waves he’s liable to encounter (not to mention putting The Dawn Patrol in serious harm’s way as he tangles with the local thuggery), but this investigation is about to give him a wilder ride than any he’s ever imagined.

Harrowing and funny, righteous and outrageous, The Dawn Patrol is epic macking crunchy from start to finish.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:40 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Working as a P.I. to earn just enough money to support his passion for surfing, Boone Daniels is obsessed with the unsolved abduction of a young girl named Rain during his career with the San Diego police, until he is given the chance to make amends.

» see all 6 descriptions

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