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  • The Dawn Patrol
  • Written by Don Winslow
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307269553
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The Dawn Patrol

Written by Don WinslowAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Don Winslow


List Price: $10.99


On Sale: June 03, 2008
Pages: 336 | ISBN: 978-0-307-26955-3
Published by : Vintage Knopf
The Dawn Patrol Cover

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From the bestselling author of Savages (now an Oliver Stone film).

As cool as its California surfer heroes, Don Winslow delivers a high velocity, darkly comic, and totally righteous crime novel.

Every morning Boone Daniels catches waves with the other members of The Dawn Patrol: four men and one woman as single-minded about surfing as he is. Or nearly. They have "real j-o-b-s"; Boone, however, works as a PI just enough to keep himself afloat. But Boone's most recent gig-investigating an insurance scam—has unexpectedly led him to a ghost from his past. And while he may have to miss the biggest swell of his surfing career, this job is about to give him a wilder ride than anything he's ever encountered. Filled with killer waves and a coast line to break your heart, The Dawn Patrol will leave you gasping for air.


The marine layer wraps a soft silver blanket over the coast.

The sun is just coming over the hills to the east, and Pacific Beach is still asleep.

The ocean is a color that is not quite blue, not quite green, not quite black, but something somewhere between all three.

Out on the line, Boone Daniels straddles his old longboard like a cowboy on his pony.

He’s on The Dawn Patrol.

The girls look like ghosts.

Coming out of the early-morning mist, their silver forms emerge from a thin line of trees as the girls pad through the wet grass that edges the field. The dampness muffles their footsteps, so they approach silently, and the mist that wraps around their legs makes them look as if they’re floating.

Like spirits who died as children.

There are eight of them and they are children; the oldest is fourteen, the youngest ten. They walk toward the waiting men in unconscious lockstep.

The men bend over the mist like giants over clouds, peering down into their universe. But the men aren’t giants; they’re workers, and their universe is the seemingly endless strawberry field that they do not rule, but that rules them. They’re glad for the cool mist—it will burn off soon enough and leave them to the sun’s indifferent mercy.

The men are stoop laborers, bent at the waist for hours at a time, tending to the plants. They’ve made the dangerous odyssey up from Mexico to work in these fields, to send money back to their families south of the border.

They live in primitive camps of corrugated tin shacks, jerry-rigged tents, and lean-tos hidden deep in the narrow canyons above the fields. There are no women in the camps, and the men are lonely. Now they look up to sneak guilty glances at the wraithlike girls coming out of the mist. Glances of need, even though many of these men are fathers, with daughters the ages of these girls.

Between the edge of the field and the banks of the river stands a thick bed of reeds, into which the men have hacked little dugouts, almost caves. Now some of the men go into the reeds and pray that the dawn will not come too soon or burn too brightly and expose their shame to the eyes of God.

It’s dawn at the Crest Motel, too.

Sunrise isn’t a sight that a lot of the residents see, unless it’s from the other side—unless they’re just going to bed instead of just getting up.

Only two people are awake now, and neither of them is the desk clerk, who’s catching forty in the office, his butt settled into the chair, his feet propped on the counter. Doesn’t matter. Even if he were awake, he couldn’t see the little balcony of room 342, where the woman is going over the railing.

Her nightgown flutters above her.

An inadequate parachute.

She misses the pool by a couple of feet and her body lands on the concrete with a dull thump.

Not loud enough to wake anyone up.

The guy who tossed her looks down just long enough to make sure she’s dead. He sees her neck at the funny angle, like a broken doll. Watches her blood, black in the faint light, spread toward the pool.

Water seeking water.

From the Hardcover edition.
Don Winslow|Author Q&A

About Don Winslow

Don Winslow - The Dawn Patrol

Photo © Jerry Bauer

Don Winslow is a former private investigator and consultant and the author of many novels, including The Dawn Patrol, The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Power of the Dog, California Fire and Life, and The Death and Life of Bobby Z. He lives in Southern California.

Author Q&A

Q: Okay the first and most obvious, do you surf and are you any good? I believe you once described your surfing skills as limited to falling and swimming.
I do, but I pretty much suck. I’m awkward anyway – a friend once said that I walk like a broken duck – so balance isn’t my best thing. Also, we’ve moved an hour inland from the beach, to an old ranch, so I’m more into my ‘cowboy’ phase. But I do keep a wetsuit in the trunk of my car, and if I’m near the coast, I usually pop in for at least a body-surfing session. I do love it.

Q: Surfing has featured in your previous novels but never as front and center as in THE DAWN PATROL. Have you been thinking about writing a big surfing novel for a long time? What made you want to do it now?
Yeah, I have been. You know that old adage, ‘Write what you know.’ I’d amend it to, ‘Write what you know and love,’ because you’re going to be spending a whole lot of time there. I’d spent years doing a pretty grim book about the drug trade, then a mob book, so going to the beach seemed like a nice break. But really I’ve always wanted to try to capture in words what had always been an ineffable fascination in my life. I was raised along the ocean and have been in the surf since I can remember. My dad took me out and taught me about waves. The ocean has always been my refuge and my catharsis, if that’s not overly pretentious. I walked to the beach after my father’s funeral. The sound of a wave going off still gets my heart pounding, and I never feel as good, or as much at peace, as when I come out of the ocean after a good, rough session. Food tastes better, I sleep great. . . I hope I captured some of that in the written word.

Q: Like your last novel, The Winter of Frankie Machine, THE DAWN PATROL follows characters that live at the intersection of the laid-back surfing culture and the shadowy underworld. What about these seemingly disparate subcultures brings them together so seamlessly for you?
The contrast. You know, you stand up on a bluff, for instance, and look at that wonderful, sunny, blue southern California scene and it’s beautiful. But you know that simultaneously, there’s a whole lot of ugly stuff going on there. At first it seems dissonant, but on deeper inspection there’s a harmony, a yin-and-yang to it. Some of the beautiful houses were built with drug money; some of those drugs were brought in on that ocean you’ re looking at, by some of the surfers who are in the break. So it is seamless. It’ s kind of like the ocean itself –one moment it’s placid and benign, and then - WHAM - it tries to kill you. But it’s still the same ocean, yeah?

Q: There is a lot of colorful surfing jargon used in THE DAWN PATROL, like ‘epic macking crunchy.’ Did you borrow these terms from the existing surfing lexicon or are they your own creation?
No, it all comes from current surfbonics. Of course, it’s always changing. Which I love. I also love that mélange of Californo-American, Hawaiian, Samoan, Mexican that makes up surf jargon. There’s a sort of democracy, maybe anarchy, of speech that’s perfectly expressive. And funny. I like the humor of surfspeak, which is usually self-deprecating as a lot of it refers to common experiences of screwing up. Surf conversations are just funny.

Q: Most of your novels take place in Southern California, and in THE DAWN PATROL the ocean and surfing are so important in your characters’ lives that they seem like characters themselves. What is it about this specific place that you find so compelling as the setting for your books?
Well, I think that characters are almost indistinguishable from place. We are where we live. So, to me, there’s little difference between the people and the locale, they’re all of a piece. And I’m in love with the place. Seriously, I can be driving between Laguna and Dana Point, for instance, and I literally ache. It’s so beautiful, so interesting, so crazy. I never get tired of it. I’m greedy for it. You drive from Newport Beach south to the border and it’s just one great place after another, all subtly different. Great beaches, great breaks, great towns, great little places. I still get a charge out of going into the Killer Dana Surf Shop. Papa’s Tacos. Jeff’s Burgers. I love having breakfast on the deck of the Coyote Grill, eating eggs machaca and looking at the impossibly blue water. Or just sitting out at ‘Shores’ and watching the slow sunset. Why is it compelling? I don’t know – why is love compelling? I could probably sit and list fifty-eight reasons why I’m in love with my wife, and they’d all be true, but they don’t get the totality. It’s just that sometimes I see her eyes and BAM – my heart stops.

Q: There are some serious issues underlying the exuberance and fast pace of the waves. Boone takes on a case that involves not only murder and blackmail but, as he discovers also exposes a terrifying network of human trafficking. Where did this aspect of the novel come from?
Shame. I mean, you drive around this beautiful part of the world and you’re having such a good time. You’re so spoiled, stunning views, nice place to live, great food, fantastic things to do (like surfing), and then you drive past some fields and you know that other people are suffering. In regard to the issues you mention, they’re happening to children and they’re suffering terribly. And if that doesn’t take some of the fun out of your day, if it doesn’t take that idiot, hedonistic grin off your face for at least a second, there’s something wrong with you. So maybe I felt that, as a writer who lives in (and off) this area, I had a responsibility to write about some of these issues – including human trafficking.

Q: Is where you live, close to the U.S. border, part of what informs your interest in exploring the lives of those searching for a better life yet often falling into the hands of those who prey on the vulnerable?
Sure. It’s a part of daily life here. I deal with it every day – on school boards, community committees, that kind of thing. I’ve seen the Border Patrol chase people across the back of my place. I’ ve found the remnants of mojado camps out in the brush on our back acres. Everyone around here knows what corner you go to if you want to hire illegal day workers. Kids in school go ‘home’ on holidays and then don’t make it back on time because they can’t get back across the border. I’ve spent time with the Border Patrol and it was one of the most depressing experiences of my life.

Q: Boone Daniels and the rest of the crew that make up ‘The Dawn Patrol’ are a winning bunch? Can we expect to see any of them again in the future?
Well, I’m glad you think so. Yeah, you’ ll be seeing them again. I guess. If you want to.

Q: Are you excited about the upcoming movie of your last novel, The Winter of Frankie Machine? Starring Robert De Niro and directed by Michael Mann it, would seem like it has a lot in its favor.
I am. I mean, come on – Robert freaking De Niro?! I’d be stoked if he just read one of my books. And Mann’s a great guy – I had a long talk with him one time about ‘Heat,’ and the man is a freak for detail. SO, yeah, I’m excited.

Q: What’s next for you?
I’m hoping for breakfast. On the longer term, I’m working on a retelling of The Aeneid, set in the crime world – no, seriously – and also doing a sequel to THE DAWN PATROL, titled The Gentlemen’s Hour, which is the next session in the daily surf calendar.



“Might be the best summertime crime novel ever.” —San Francisco Chronicle“Heartbreaking. . . . Could be a breakthrough for Winslow.”—Los Angeles Times“One of the most entertaining beach books of this-or any other-summer . . . [A] rocketing thriller.”—The Times-Picayune“Colossally cool. . . . Captures the essence of Southern California itself: forecast sunny and clear, with an undertow of darkness.”—San Antonio Express-News

From the Trade Paperback edition.

  • The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
  • June 03, 2008
  • Fiction - Mystery & Detective
  • Vintage
  • $10.99
  • 9780307269553

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