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SAVAGES Author Don Winslow: “I Felt Like Throwing Some Elbows.”
Savages, the newest Oliver Stone movie starring Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, and John Travolta, will hit theaters this coming Independence Day weekend, and the press machine is running on all cylinders. And though it is not unheard of for the writer of either the screenplay or original novel to be hailed as well, seeing Don Winslow get plenty of ink over this venture is heartening indeed.
Winslow has become something of a personal hero of mine over the last year. When Savages hit the bookstores two years ago, many of my most trusted friends raved about it, and so I finally checked it out last year and was summarily floored. Written in the stripped-down, no-bullshit style I’ve come to adore in the works of Cormac McCarthy and Nick Tosches, Savages also takes place in my stomping grounds of Southern California, including the grim border areas where I drank my under-21 youth away. The themes of old vs. new, young vs. old, have new life breathed into them, and there’s an overt Animal House reference.
So I am certainly thrilled for Mr. Winslow that he is receiving the recognition for his work that he so rightly deserves, but at the same time, it gets under my skin a bit. It’s an odd paradox, but I’ll give it a go: Far as I’m concerned, Don Winslow is a master of his craft, even though I’ve only read the one book of his (a situation I eagerly look forward to correcting). I know that, and anyone who’s read him would agree, I’m sure. The money and recognition inherent in the film adaptation of Savages makes me happy for Mr. Winslow himself, but frankly, I could give a fuck what Hollywood or any other irrelevant media-deity has to say as far as “justification” of the man’s work. I’ve already given odds that the Savages movie is going to be good, but it should go without saying that the book is and always will be the best version of this story.
Ironically, it is just this go-to-hell attitude that has allowed for the success of Savages. In this lovely piece on Winslow in the New York Times, he talks about how after a lengthy career and with 12 novels under his belt, “I was a little tired of people telling me how to write, what’s going to sell and what isn’t. I felt like throwing some elbows.” The fact that Oliver Stone himself, a guy I admire but who also strikes me as something of a looney tune, diplomatically describes working with Winslow as having “moments of difficulty” only reassures me further. Winslow is often described as soft-spoken and disarming, but I guarantee you, if you get in his way on a story, you’re taking an elbow to the lip.
Keep throwin’ ‘em, Don.