Connect with us

Cannabis News

Phuket Books: A question of savages



Thaiger deals

PHUKET: I picked up Don Winslow’s Savages (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2010, 358pp) with a good deal of eagerness, having just finished the much-lauded prequel The Kings of Cool, which impressed me with its zany energy, veering between screenplay,
poetic stanzas and wise-guy syncopated prose, deeply empathic with the surfer/grass dealer ethos of Laguna Beach, California.

Winslow is a wildly original stylist, willing to throw everything into a perpetually bubbling pot of invention. I hadn’t felt so excited since I first discovered the crime novels of Elmore Leonard.

At the novel’s heart are three lovable childhood friends – Navy SEAL Chon, philanthropist Ben and beach babe “O” (for Ophelia) who is in love with them both.

They grow and sell the best hydroponic marijuana buds in the nation, derived from a White Widow seed brought back by Chon from Afghanistan and honed to perfection by botanist Ben.

The savages are the thugs, lawyers and crooked cops of the Mexican drug cartel who want to take over their operation. They too get their narrative turn: Elena, the beautiful widow and ruthless cartel queen; Lado, the dead-eyed enforcer, ex-cop and double-crosser; Esteban, the young husband and apprentice gangster. As Mexicans, they see Americans as, “rambunctious rustics who just got on a lucky streak in the 1840s and rode it to steal half of Mexico”.

In Ben and Chon, Elena sees, “a smart, sophisticated, reasonable businessman with no stomach for bloodshed.

The other is an uncouth, foul-mouthed barbarian who seems to relish violence. In short, a savage.”

Chon’s view is that there are two worlds.

“The savage is the world of pure raw power, survival of the fittest, drug cartels and death squads, dictators and strongmen, terrorist attacks, gang wars, tribal hatreds, mass murder, mass rape.

“The less savage is the world of pure civilized power, governments and armies, multinationals and banks, oil companies, shock-and-awe, death-from-the-sky, genocide, mass economic rape.

And Chon knows – “They’re the same world.”

Ben outwits and Chon outguns the cartel until Elena orders Lado and his crew to kidnap O. Then the pair knuckle under to the cartel’s orders, or appear to, while they carry out Taliban-style ambushes to steal the drug cash needed to meet the cartel’s US$20 million ransom demand. Meanwhile, O passes that time away watching TV with the apprentice mobster Esteban while being viewed on CCTV by a sympathetic Elena.

The idealistic Ben is forced to cast off layer upon layer of civilized morality as Chon’s raids against the cartel become ever more complex, entertaining and murderous. Then they force a corrupt DEA agent to turn over the government’s entire computer file on the cartel. Ripped on speed, the two stare at the computer screen all night. Winslow’s bent, wayward, whimsical narrative continues:

“Dawn finds them –

“Check that –

“Dawn doesn’t ‘find’ shit – dawn’s not looking. (The only redeeming quality of the universe, Chon believes, is its indifference.)

“When the sun comes up they’re still there, pouring over the mass of material.

“Ben, natch, wants context.”

They find what they’re looking for: Elena’s own point of vulnerability.

A climatic confrontation takes place in the Californian desert. Beforehand, Ben muses:

“Elena will bring an army.

“Their chances of getting out are… How many ways are there to say zero?



No hope, no faith, no values, no future, no past.


The novel ends in a blaze of violence and then a sudden hot bath of mawkish sentimentality. The ending is so awful I can’t bear to quote it. It brings into disrepute everything that has gone on before.

How can an author so sure-handed fling out this steaming pile of mush as a finale?

When I first read Elmore Leonard, the king of crime writers, I felt, like Stephen King, that I wanted to read everything he had ever written.

This botched ending has quelled my yearning for anything more from Don Winslow, thank you very much. Savages is a cruel disappointment.

A kindle version is available from

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand31 mins ago

Cabinet seems to have ignored 4am nightlife proposal

Video2 hours ago

THAILAND NEWS TODAY | Korean woman arrested for 5-million-baht theft, 6-year overstay

Crime2 hours ago

Tuhao’s Chinese gang buys 50 homes in Bangkok luxury village with cash

Sponsored3 hours ago

Krungthong Plaza offers endless choices of well-selected plus-size fashion products

Road deaths2 hours ago

Bus flipped in Tak injuring 44 Burmese workers, killing 3

Thailand2 hours ago

3 men were arrested for stealing Thai Internet connection & World Cup betting in Cambodia

Pattaya2 hours ago

Intoxicated Pattaya woman left uninjured after overturning car

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Crime3 hours ago

Woman who allegedly scammed victims for over 30 million baht arrested in Pattaya

Bangkok3 hours ago

Bangkok BTS Skytrain fares to increase next year

Thailand3 hours ago

Police put brakes on car rental thief in Bangkok

World3 hours ago

New drug marks major milestone in slowing Alzhemier’s

World Cup4 hours ago

400 to 500 migrant workers in Qatar died due to World Cup, not 6,500

Visa5 hours ago

Thailand advises Indians to obtain visa prior to travelling to avoid long queues

Thailand5 hours ago

Driver furious with Bangkok shopping mall after foreigner accidently causes damage to her car

Politics5 hours ago

Iran promises Thailand it won’t attack Israeli tourists

Crime6 hours ago

Korean woman arrested for 5 million baht theft, 6-year overstay

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11