My friend Betsy had been recommending Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol to me for a few months but I’d resisted ’cause she said it was about surfing. I’ve never surfed, don’t know anything about it, am actually afraid of big waves and didn’t think I’d want to read about a bunch of surfer dudes. Boy, was I wrong. I finally picked up the book and, like a big wave, it slammed into me, rolled me a few times and didn’t let me up for air until two days later.
Boone Daniels and his five friends make up the Dawn Patrol, a group of surfers (five guys, one girl) who meet every morning at dawn to tackle the waves at Pacific Beach in San Diego. Then the others go off to “real” jobs while Boone moonlights as a private investigator, but only enough to afford fish tacos on flour tortillas because “everything tastes better on a tortilla.” He takes a supposedly easy case—locating a missing stripper who was supposed to testify in a major trial—but finds out a little girl has also gone missing. This brings back memories of the case which resulted in Boone’s quitting the San Diego Police Department, one involving a missing little girl he was unable to find. Boone is determined not to fail this time and as he gets farther into the investigation, it forces him to choose sides and do things that might ruin the brotherhood of the Dawn Patrol.
Though the subject matter turns out to be heart shattering, the book has many hilarious moments. The scene where the gang takes one of its members, Hang Twelve, to a strip club for his birthday made me laugh out loud. “Naked asses” and “buffet” really should never be in the same sentence. Everyone in the patrol is funny, compelling and cooler than cool but their easy, jokey banter belies the fact they would fiercely watch each other’s back.
The thing I love about Winslow’s breezy style is that he paints clear pictures with succinct strokes. In describing a man about to be attacked by thugs in his home, Winslow writes, “He’s on his third Corona when the door comes in.” He also pulls off something I’ve never seen before—a complete sentence consisting only of the same word repeated three times as subject-verb-object: “Now he drives his truck…with his best friend in the back, a man who is like family to him. But like ain’t is. Is is is.”
Winslow is so good with his prose, he even makes the history behind the surf culture interesting. Normally, I would’ve skipped over these sections to get to the whodunit but with Winslow, you don’t want to miss a word because none is wasted.