Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Surfers loved their stories. Big waves and outlaws. Eccentrics who had managed somehow to beat the system, to stay in the life when others moved inland and paid taxes." No one knows this better than Nunn (Pomona Queen), who, after 13 years, returns to the California surfing setting of his acclaimed first novel, Tapping the Source. Despite recent screw-ups, past-his-prime surfing photographer Fletcher is hired by a glossy surfing magazine to shoot aging master Drew Harmon and a couple of hot-shot tyros at a legendary Northern California beach dubbed Heart Attacks. The assignment is a bonehead idea from the start. Harmon-a semi-recluse who lives on an Indian reservation and pitched the photo shoot for unknown reasons-has no idea where Heart Attacks actually is. He's not entirely sane, in fact, and neither is his wife, a working witch. Also, the residents of the reservation are eager for confrontation, and murderously outsized cold-water waves (known to surfers as "dogs of winter") pound the shoreline. The novel begins to build a head of steam as an examination of how outsiders can wreak havoc on a small community. The tone changes dramatically when the surfers hit the road and are hunted by a band of Native Americans who've burnt down Harmon's home and kidnapped his wife. But this is no chase-the-gun-down thriller, and before you can say, "endless summer," the plot veers off in an even more sinister direction. Chapters alternate in perspective between those of Fletcher, Harmon's wife and a mixed-race official from the tribal council who bears the unlikely name of Travis McCade. It's hard to understand McCade's purpose in the novel since, structurally speaking, all he does is provide a sane foil for Harmon and fall for the man's wife. Fletcher serves the same functions, and more naturally. Even so, the story rides high, sped by prose as crisp as a breaking wave, as Nunn, a skilled author, once again writes deeply about a subject he knows and loves. Paperback rights to Washington Square Press; author tour. (Feb.)
A few years back, one of the big stories in the surfing world was the discovery of a "secret spot" in Northern California with monster waves that rivaled those of Hawaii's Waimea Bay. Nunn, author of Tapping the Source (1984), one of the few classics of surfing fiction, explores the premise of an undiscovered surfing paradise in this ambitious but poorly focused novel. Jack Fletcher, an aging sports photographer hooked on pain pills, accompanies legendary longboard master Drew Harmon and two pierced and tattooed younger pros on an expedition to document a fabled spot known as Heart Attacks near the Oregon border. For the older men, this is a final opportunity to cash in on a sport that has nearly ruined their lives. Essentially a West Coast version of James Dickey's Deliverance (1970), the book has as its main attraction a colorful supporting cast of rural weirdos, New Agers, and substance abusers. For larger collections of California fiction.-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch., Los Angeles
Remarkable. A serious, richly satisfying novel.
Novelist Kem Nunn is the most accomplished practitioner of California noir writing today, the principle heir to the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Nathaniel West...The Dogs of Winter...is Nunn's best novel yet...there's probably not an American novelist working today who is better at choreographing and describing physical action, and few so capably combined thrills with clear-eyed and compassionate characterizations.
-- The Washington Post Book World
The Dogs of Winter is a sharply focused story about good and evil...There's a lot going on in this supercharged tale of...crankster-gangsters and sneaker-waves, and shape-shifters. There is witchcraft, insanity, savagery, and in the end, a peace that may indeed surpass understanding....Like the novel's legendary surfer, who builds extra-long redwood guns to ride the big waves of the Pacific Northwest, Nunn has fashioned his own gun -- a plot sturdy enough to carry a fair amount of intellectual cargo a long way toward shore....Nunn has a keen ear for the jabber of lowlifes and nincompoops. His fix on the argot can be wickedly funny.
-- Los Angeles Times Magazine
From the Publisher
"The Dogs of Winter is a sharply focused story about good and evil....There is a lot going on in this supercharged tale of...crankster gangsters and sneaker waves, shape-shifters and great whites. There is witchcraft, insanity, savagery, and in the end, a peace that may indeed surpass understanding....Like the novel's legendary surfer, who builds extra-long redwood 'guns' to ride the big waves of the Pacific Northwest, Nunn has fashioned his own gun a plot sturdy enough to carry a fair amount of intellectual cargo a long way toward shore....Nunn has a keen ear for the jabber of lowlifes and nincompoops. His riffs on the argot can be wickedly funny."
Frank Clifford, Los Angeles Times Magazine
"Novelist Kem Nunn is the most accomplished practitioner of California noir writing today, the principal heir to the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Nathanael West....The Dogs of Winter...is Nunn's best novel yet....There's probably not an American novelist working today who is better at choreographing and describing physical action, and few who so capably combine thrills with clear-eyed and compassionate characterizations."
James Hynes, The Washington Post Book World
"No one writing in America today writes better about the surf than Kem Nunn."
Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
"Nunn's churning prose picks you up like a thirty-foot wave and gives you one helluva ride to the beach....[The Dogs of Winter] is the greatest novel ever written about surfing."
Peter Plagens, Newsweek
"Remarkable. A serious, richly satisfying novel."
Steve Friedman, GQ