Saturday, December 6, 2008


I had read on Goodreads, then another site, about the books of Don Winslow, who seemed to have developed a bit of a following. I can see why. Just finished The Winter of Frankie Machine, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Winslow's written three other volumes, and I fully intend to give them a try.

Frankie Machine is the nickname for San Diego mobster and hitman Frank Machianno, known for his precise and inevitable hits, who is pretty much retired from the Mafia and enjoying his golden years as a beloved and respected businessman (bait-shop owner, linen service, fishmonger), as well as a local fixture with the older surfers. What is it with tough-guy noir characters and baitshops (see Burke)? He has a normal life, still helps his ex-wife, has a developing relationship with his daughter (headed to med school), and dates a gorgeous, ex-Vegas showgirl and couture-shop-owning workaholic girlfriend. Frankie loves the good life, is as precise and exacting with his coffee and food as he is with his mob hits, and fits in well with surfers and fishermen. Even as a mobster he earned a reputation for honesty and humanity, to an extend even toward the people he is sent to kill, and he does not take life without cause, even letting some people skate that he could have taken out. So all is well in Frankie's world. . .except

You can't always escape your past, especially the associations you once kept or participation in events that you might have only been a peripheral player in. They will always come back to haunt you, and so they do in this novel. Now his ordered life is thrown akimbo and he has to figure out what to do. And the story picks up momentum and interest, slipping between good action and even more interesting reminiscences of his mobbed-up life. The plot does not bog down with detritis or unnecessary floweriness. It just keeps moving along. And Winslow does not over glamorize the underworld and criminal element, although the life has some attractions. No, he shows their warts; the mobsters are often bumbling, brutal, unintelligent, rats. There is no (or little) honor among thieves, though Frankie tries to live through an older code. As an atypical mobster, who is less greedy and sociopathic, you come to like and root for the character.

My only criticism is Winslow's change of voice, from first person to third, sometimes it seems right in the middle of a passage.

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