By November 8, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Dusty Book Guest Post: Surf’s Up!

Ah yes, here in Chicago, we’re dealing with a difficult week—the days following Daylight Savings Time.  Sure, it’s nice to have some sun finally peeking out when you wake up in the morning, but it’s hard to deal with driving home in the dark at 4pm.  So I’m turning my thoughts to sunnier days, thanks to guest blogger John Schoppert, Senior Branch Assistant at the Pierce County Library in Tacoma, WA. Thanks John!


There’s something about diving into a surf mystery that quenches the soul and I’ve finished a great one by Don Winslow called The Dawn Patrol.  There are few things more potent in literature than accurately described physical endurance and Winslow captures what it’s like to be held under water after a big-wave wipe-out. I’ve spent enough time being bounced along the ocean floor disoriented and wondering if my breath will last to know how that feels. Winslow perfectly describes the combination of fear and calmness that envelopes surfers when they’ve hit bottom.

Set in San Diego, The Dawn Patrol balances the power and beauty of surfing with a mistaken murder, illegal border importation and a nasty arson trial. Filled with great dollops of San Diego history this is the story of P.I. Boone Daniels, ex-San Diego cop, who’s the focal point of a morning surf crew calling themselves the Dawn Patrol.

Daniels gets involved with a Samoan drug lord, a reptilian strip club owner (is there any other kind?) and cops who need help with anger issues. Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach crash into the mansions of La Jolla until the whole mess ends up in the old strawberry fields of outer San Diego County. Add The Dawn Patrol to the lineup of Southern California mysteries in the vein of Ross MacDonald’s The Goodbye Look and T. Jefferson Parker’s Laguna Heat.

I grew up in San Diego wasting far too much time on Mission Beach, PB, OB, and D Street (with its vicious shore break.) I enjoy books that capture the essence of a place and surfing holds a place in the imagination that almost matches the power of catching a gnarly ride. Here’s some surf fiction worth considering when waiting for your next set to come in . . .

Great reads centered on surfing:

Breath: A Novel, by Tim Winton.  Winton captures Australian surf with rich lyrical language exploring a rivalry created by a surfing guru. Lives are transformed unexpectedly as Winton weaves a perfectly pitched dark tale.

The Dogs of Winter, by Kem Nunn.  A photographer chases down a legendary big wave rider trying to tame a remote beach break in Northern California. A death involving a local boy pushes this novel into metaphysical examinations of the dark side of interlopers. Is this where the Heart of Darkness catches the last wave?

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, by Cameron Crowe. While not an essential surf novel Crowe’s novel about Redondo Beach High School in the late 70s perfectly places the angst and confusion of those dreadful years at the losers table. This is a fast paced look at teenage cliques which naturally includes surfers. This book’s included because Fast Times certainly has the most famous fictional surfer (at least on screen, he isn’t quite so prominent in the book): Spicoli Lives on . . . .somewhere, dude.

Tapping the Source, by Kem Nunn.  The first of several surf novels by Nunn, this one centers on the surf scene of Huntington Beach, CA. Among the washouts and faded light this story explores the effect of the ocean on a young man’s search for his sister’s killers. A classic surf mystery.

Tijuana Straits, by Kem Nunn.  Damaged lives, lost souls and environmental wastelands make up the latest of Nunn’s surf titles which centers on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. There is beauty here in characters looking for redemption among the toxicity of the landscape, both human and natural. Nunn’s image of the International border fence sinking into the sea is indelible.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey.  From the non-fiction side of the surf line-up is this mesmerizing look at big wave riders and the scientific study of waves. Casey deftly weaves the physics and astounding power of large waves through historical phenomena and showcases world class surfers in pursuit of the ultimate ride. A book filled with delightful surprises.


John Schoppert



About the Author:

Rebecca Vnuk is the editor for Collection Management and Library Outreach at Booklist. She is also the author of 3 reader’s-advisory nonfiction books: Read On…Women’s Fiction (2009), Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (2014), and Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide (2009). Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_RVnuk.

Post a Comment