- - Thursday, April 16, 2020

After publishing a big crime novel like “The Cartel,” “The Force” and “The Border” every two years, Don Winslow decided to publish “Broken,” a collection of five novellas and one short story. Inspired by the novella collections of Jim Harrison and Stephen King, Don Winslow sees the quick potential of selling the six stories to television and films.

FX is working on his cartel drug trafficking trilogy — “Power of the Dog,” “The Cartel” and “The Border” — into a television series called “The Cartel.” TV and film producers are also buying or bidding on other Winslow crime novels. At 65, Mr. Winslow, a former private detective and safari guide, is considered a hot property.

In “Broken,” the stories are connected by themes of crime, corruption, tragedy and humor.        

Mr. Winslow offers an Ernest Hemingway quote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places,” to open his story, “Broken.”  

“You ain’t gotta tell Eva the world is a broken place,” Mr. Winslow writes. “A 911 dispatcher on a night shift, Eva McNabb hears humanity’s brokenness for eight hours straight, five nights a week, more when she’s pulling doubles. She hears the car accidents, the robberies, the shootings, the murders, the maiming’s, the deaths. She hears the fear, the panic, the anger, the rage, the chaos, and she sends men racing toward it.”   

Her two sons are New Orleans police officers. One is a sensitive patrol officer and the other is a brutal narcotics officer. The sensitive cop is murdered by a drug trafficker who sought to punish the narcotics officer who busted his drug shipment. The murder sets off a tale of revenge and murder.

In “Crime 101,” which Mr. Winslow dedicates to the late actor Steve McQueen, a clever jewel thief travels California Highway 101 in San Diego, robbing jewel couriers and merchants with a minimum of force and maximum speed. The crook admires Steve McQueen, the definition of California cool, and adheres to a set of principals he calls Crime 101 (“Crime 101: There’s a word for a man who believes in coincidences: the defendant”). The crook is pursued by an old school San Diego detective in this clever and interesting story.

Mr. Winslow dedicates “The San Diego Zoo,” to Elmore Leonard.

“No one knows how the chimp got the revolver,” Mr. Winslow writes. “Only that it’s a problem. Chris Shea didn’t think it was his problem though, when the call first came over the radio that a chimpanzee had escaped from the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

“Call Animal Control,” he responded, not considering runaway monkeys to be a police matter. Then the dispatcher added, “Uhh, the chimp appears to be armed.”

“Armed?” Chris asked. “With what a stick?”

“Witnesses are reporting that the chimp is carrying a pistol.”

In “Sunset,” which Mr. Winslow dedicates to Raymond Chandler, he brings back several characters from his early stories, such as Boone Daniels, a surfer and bounty hunter working for Duke Kasmajjan, a San Diego bail bondsman, and Neal Carey, a teacher and former private detective, who was Mr. Winslow’s first character.

The characters are after Terry Maddux, a once-legendary surfer and now a drug addict, petty criminal and bail jumper. The story delves into the world of California surfing and petty crime.

In “Paradise,” Mr. Winslow also brings back characters from his previous stories. Traveling to Hawaii to expand their illegal marijuana empire, Ben, Chon and O from his novel “Savages” encounter violent resistance from a native Hawaiian organized crime drug group.

“Ben picked Hanalei for a vacation because he wants to do business here. He got the idea from Peter, Paul and Mary. (His parents were hippies). Ben explained this to O back in Laguna,” Mr. Winslow writes. “Peter, Paul and Mary,” he repeated to her uncomprehending expression.

“Jesus’s parents,” O said.”

“Yeah, not really,” Ben said, unsurprised that O would think that Jesus had multiple fathers. “Peter, Paul and Mary were a sixties folk-singing group.”

Ben played the group’s hit song, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” telling his friends and partners that the song was about weed.

Chon, a former Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, noted that they used the song to interrogate Taliban prisoners. “They gave it up after the first verse.”      

Mr. Winslow’s characters Bobby Z and Frankie the Machine also make an appearance in the story.

In the final story, “The Last Ride,” Mr. Winslow offers a fine and sad tale about a Border Patrol officer who goes the distance to reunite a little girl held in custody with her mother. But he unfortunately taints a good story with his liberal views on border policies.

“Broken” is an interesting, well-written and fast-paced collection of crime stories.

• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

• • •


By Don Winslow

William Morrow, $28.99, 352 pages

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