Savages was the first Don Winlsow book I’d read, and it hooked me in a few pages. Violent, sexualized, powerful and chock-full of characters as three-dimensional as I’d ever read in crime fiction. I knew then that I’d want to read more — which is when I bought The Winter of Frankie Machine. That was two years ago. Sometimes that’s how things go, especially when you read a lot. Sometimes you lose track of authors (i.e. get distracted by other authors) and have to wait a while to come back to them. Since Savages, I’ve read a lot of Block, Mankell, Woodrell, Abbott and Gran, but that aqua-blue cover of The Winter of Frankie Machine kind of haunted me. Savages had been so delightful, I knew I had to make time for another Winslow joint.
Frankie Machine doesn’t disappoint. I’m about 100 pages in and enjoying every second. Frank Machianno is a retired mafia hitman living a comfortable life in San Diego – running a bait shop on the pier, serving as landlord to a few properties and keeping tabs on his daughter, ex-wife and independent ladyfriend. Things are good. Until something bad happens and his past starts to crawl to the surface.
Winslow masterfully sets the stage for Frankie by introducing the reader to his mundane day-to-day. But he does it in such a way that you know there’s more to this Frank guy than just the regular-schmoe veneer he gives off. He must have a history. Some kind of secret. So, by the time you get your first taste of the real Frank – Frankie Machine – you’re surprised by what the secret is, not that there is one. There’s a lot of Elmore Leonard with a dash of James Ellroy in this book. I see a lot of stylistic similarities between Winslow and Duane Swierczynski, another favorite of mine, as well. Good stuff.
After this: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and probably Winslow’s newly-released Savages prequel, The Kings of Cool.