Monday, May 20, 2013

Welcome to Ocean Beach

By Reece Hirsch

If I could inhabit a fictional world, I think I would choose the Ocean Beach of Don Winslow’s “The Dawn Patrol.”  First, it’s probably the most thoroughly entertaining crime novel that I’ve read in the past few years.  Second, I like the notion of being a charter member of the Dawn Patrol, that group of surfers and longtime friends sitting in the waters off the San Diego coastline sharing laconic jokes and engaging in minor debates as the sun comes up over the horizon and they wait for the big swell.

And, no, I don’t surf, so the Dawn Patrol is the sort of club that would never have me as a member in real life.  But I do like the idea, particularly the quiet and stillness of sitting out there on a board, simultaneously together with your friends and alone with the ocean.  The Dawn Patrol consists of part-time PI Boone Daniels, Hang Twelve, Dave the Love God, Johnny Banzai, High Tide and Sunny Day.  In Winslow’s expert hands, they are fine company.

After working up an appetite riding the waves with the Dawn Patrol, I would proceed to The Sundowner, the wood-paneled, surf-photo-adorned restaurant next door to Boone’s office.  It’s best in the morning when the place is full of locals and before the tourists arrive.  I would order the eggs machaca, which come with warm flour tortillas on the side.  As Winslow notes, correctly, everything tastes better on a tortilla.

Among the Dawn Patrol’s topics of conversation is the constantly revised List of Things That Are Good, which includes:

"1.  Double overheads.

2.  Reef break.

3.  The tube.

4.  Girls who will sit on the beach and watch you ride double overheads, reef break and the tube.  (Inspiring Sunny’s remark that “Girls watch – women ride.”)

5.  Free stuff.

6.  Longboards.

7.  Anything made by O’Neill.

8.  All-female outrigger canoe teams.

9.  Fish tacos.

10.  Big Wednesday."

On my own personal and constantly revised List of Things That Are Good, I would most definitely include Don Winslow’s “The Dawn Patrol.”


Barry Knister said...

This is the kind of review every writer dreams of getting: generous,well-written, informed, detailed. It's a little like the perfect non-surfer's dream of surfing. Your review is so convincing that I am almost certain to read The Dawn Patrol.

Barry Knister said...

About questions for Criminal Minds: I would love to read what the CM writers have to say about deciding which to use, first- or third-person narration. I want to write in third person, but every time I try, I find it too confining, having to channel everything through one character.
Hope you can take this up.

Reece said...

Barry -- Thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear that I've won a convert for Winslow. First- versus third- person is a great question that I don't think we've taken up before at CM. I will pass that one along.

For what it's worth, I wrote my first book in close third-person, sticking exclusively with the point of view of my protagonist. In my second book, I loosened it up a bit and included a couple of chapters from the close third-person POV of some more peripheral characters. Writing instructors often say that close third-person is the "safest" approach for beginning writers but that certainly doesn't mean that it's the best way to tell your particular story.

Barry Knister said...

I misspoke--it's first person I wish I could use, not third. But being limited to one pair of eyes and one sensibility never feels right to me--it cuts me off from many possibilities. Then again, I discovered, through painful trial and error, that using more than three developed point-of-view characters topples the narrative. Writing in first person seems especially well suited to mysteries and stories of detection in which one character picks his/her way through the clues. But I don't write those kinds of stories, so maybe it's not something I should worry about.

Reece said...

Barry -- I agree that first-person can be really effective for certain stories (a few great PI novels come to mind), but it can be awfully limiting for others. It all depends on the demands of the story that you're telling.