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The Kings of Cool

Posted on

BUZZ KILL This less than stellar prequel to Savages explores the histories of its drug lord protagonists, their lady and their families
Simon & Schuster

The Kings of Cool

Current Status:
In Season
Don Winslow
Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a B-

The unlikely drug lords Ben and Chon, introduced in Don Winslow’s 2010 thriller Savages, are back. Ben, the son of two Laguna Beach shrinks, is the Zen-minded Berkeley grad who developed a highly potent strain of marijuana. Chon (a boyhood nickname) is the ex–Navy SEAL who helps distribute Ben’s primo product throughout Southern California. ”Together, Ben and Chon make up a collective pacifist,” Winslow writes in his 2005-set prequel, The Kings of Cool. ”Ben is the paci. Chon is the fist.” Wordplay is a hallmark of Winslow’s distinctive narrative voice — director Oliver Stone incorporates only a smidgen of it into his movie version of Savages, due in theaters July 6. Like a stoner Dennis Miller, Winslow maintains a loose, witty stream-of-consciousness banter laced with puns and pop-culture-fueled digressions: ”…neo-hippies are grungy, pasty-faced-from-vegan-diets (‘Eat a f—ing cheeseburger, Casper’)…”

The new novel spends surprisingly little time on the boys who would be Kings — or on their queen, O (short for Ophelia), the girl they both fall for and whose kidnapping is the catalyst for the action in Savages. Ben is setting up his first grow houses (and installing solar panels to reduce the carbon footprint), Chon is still doing tours in Afghanistan, and O, 19, is bristling under the roof of her four-times-married mom. Instead of focusing primarily on the youthful trio, though, the book delves into their parents’ history with convoluted flashbacks to the halcyon, hallucinatory days of the Orange County drug culture in the ’60s. (Unfortunately, one 1967 scene anachronistically name-checks both Scooby-Doo and Joni Mitchell.) You may still get a contact high from Winslow’s spliffy-pop prose, but The Kings of Cool is a weaker blend than the original. B-