Don Winslow’s blistering crime novels are reminiscent of ‘The Godfather’

The novelist Don Winslow has been at the peak of his powers as a storyteller for some time now. Last year as he published “City on Fire” he announced it would be the first book in a planned trilogy and with the completion of those books he was retiring from writing novels.

I have always admired people who know when it is time to quit. Going out when you are on top of your game is a rare and admirable thing to do. So many athletes, musicians, and writers hang on, stubbornly refusing to accept time has passed them by. The once feared baseball slugger who can no longer get around on a fastball. Singers losing their voices. Past their prime writers who once wrote best sellers and insist surely one day they will do it again.

Don Winslow is selling more books than ever. The man is really going out at the top. His latest, the second book in the new trilogy, is “City of Dreams.” In the first book there was a war between two crime families, one Irish, the other Italian, during the late 1980′s, in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Morettis and the Murphys had gotten along for decades with each crime family having their designated turf. They socialized with one another. One day they were together partying when a beautiful woman stunningly rose up from along the surfline. They were captivated by her.

The alluring damsel instigated tension between the families; it became a full blown war. Then Danny Ryan of the Murphy clan fled with his most trusted lieutenants after a botched heroin smuggling operation imploded. Ryan’s wife had just died. Cancer. Federal agents waited at her funeral to apprehend the husband. He never turned up. Where was he likely hiding out until things cooled off? The Italians really wanted their heroin back.

As “City of Dreams” opens Danny Ryan is pondering matters. Where could they lay low? Las Vegas? Los Angeles? Further complications involve his young son and aging father. His now motherless son invokes painful parallels. Danny’s own mother essentially abandoned him. A former showgirl, she now lives in palatial splendor in Las Vegas and really wants her son to curtail their estrangement to allow her to be with her grandson.

The remnants of the Irish gang end up in L.A. Danny warns them: maintain low profiles. Two of his wildest soldiers discover someone is making a movie about their mob wars back in Rhode Island. These two wise guys are like moths drawn to a flame. Next thing Danny gets dragged into their burgeoning mess. Suddenly he’s dating a glamorous movie star; the paparazzi paste him on the covers of every tabloid. The people searching for him are intrigued.

Winslow’s protagonist, Danny Ryan, is a gang boss with a moral and ethical code. He doesn’t kill people just to kill them. If they are threatening his life, OK, he’ll do that. Things become so crazed, Winslow writes page turners! That final book, “City of Ashes,” comes out next year.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

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