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The Dogs of Winter

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  603 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Heart Attacks is California's last secret spot - the premier mysto surf haunt, the stuff of rumor and legend. The rumors say you must cross Indian land to get there. They tell of hostile locals and shark-infested waters where waves in excess of thirty feet break a mile from shore. For down-and-out photographer Jack Fletcher, the chance to shoot these waves in the company o ...more
Paperback, 370 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by Oldcastle Books (first published 1997)
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Scott Foshee
May 18, 2013 Scott Foshee rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, sports, surfing, noir
Moody, dark and misty, full of rain, cynicism, murderous waves, shady deals gone bad, deeply flawed characters and the redemptive power of surfing, "The Dogs of Winter" is the second in author Kem Nunn's surf noir California surf trilogy.

"The Dogs of Winter" finds broken down surf photographer Jack Fletcher hooked on booze and pills and living in a ratty hole in Huntington Beach, California. He is divorced, estranged from his daughter, and by his own admission is "no longer cool." He then gets
...more
Adam
Are all human plans vanity in the face of nature and the twisted ways of life? Nunn seems to ask this question, focusing on fame, money, spirituality, revenge, and heroism showing them as faint comfort when it comes down. Compared with Straw Dogs and Deliverance this excellently plotted and characterized tale of foolishness, revenge, and violence set in the surreal beauty of the unforgiving wilderness of Northern California and Southern Oregon also treads ground similar to Denis Johnson’s Alread ...more
Lonnie
Apr 15, 2009 Lonnie rated it liked it
I liked this one. It reminded me of a hybrid of a pair of movies from the 90's: Point Break and Thunder Heart. The guy is a great prose stylist and I love the feel of his stories. they are dark, yet inviting and there is a disarming twinge of sentmentality to the books I've read by him.
Matt
Mar 26, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing
This to me conveyed real feelings of being a surfer... Beautifully written using correct terminology not hokey dude talk... If you are a real surfer you must read this book
Dlmrose
Oct 05, 2016 Dlmrose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5
Mihai Giurgiulescu
Nov 17, 2016 Mihai Giurgiulescu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, fiction
No time to write a full review, but just wanted to note that in addition to being a surf-noir classic, which I probably wouldn't have willingly read had it not been for a serendipitous purchase, Dogs of Winter is also a well-crafted tale of social conflict on the northern California coast. The main characters here, all well defined by an author firmly in control of the narrative, are confronted with choices that appear simple black and white, until layers are peeled back one by one and a moral g ...more
Nancy
Jan 17, 2017 Nancy rated it really liked it
Surprisingly involving - Tim Winton said it 'gets' the mysto macho world of surf culture, and since it reminded me a lot of Breath in the quality of the writing in describing that world. Lyrical.
Tim
Feb 15, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-suspense
More literary than my placement (on mystery-suspense shelf) would have you think. Lovely book and harrowing too. A passage: "It [the first wave of a set] was an unnerving spectacle, and a yet a thing to behold full of terror and fluid beauty. The amount of water involved was such that it was like watching a piece of the earth become liquid, as if in some cataclysm, or at the hour of creation. The wave rose first with great mass, like a hill, but this hill was made of liquid, in constant flux, an ...more
Jay
Apr 17, 2016 Jay rated it it was amazing
After I read Kem Nunn's "Tijuana Straits," I went out and found "The Dogs of Winter" by the same author. The author takes you deep down into the soul of the surfer. The main character Drew Harmon lives the dream. He spends his life looking for the perfect wave even if it kills him. Get it? In this book, surviving insane, 60-foot suicidal waves is only half the violence and half the mystery.
"Dogs of Winter" reads like a crime novel. It's full of murder and drug dealing and witchcraft, but every t
...more
John
Mar 12, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable story of obsession and redemption by way of the surfing world. An aging surfing legend who is half Brian Wilson (in Dennis' body) and half Captain Ahab recruits and leads an unlikely group of characters in the search for the holy grail of waves. His obsession disturbs the natural balance of the world they traverse with consequences. Kem Nunn is a master artist at creating memorable, believable characters and weaving them seamlessly into original, gripping plots. The young hotshot su ...more
John Millikin
Sep 26, 2012 John Millikin rated it liked it
If you specifically enjoy surfing literature then "Dogs of Winter" is more like a 4 or a 5 star book. For writing alone, however, I could only give it a 3. But it's a strong 3. I really enjoyed this book. If you have ever spent time along the Northern California/Southern Oregon coastline in winter, then you will recognize and appreciate the authenticity of the literary description. Dark, misty, gloomy, sketchy, and yet breathtakingly beautiful all at once, the scenery parallels this thick tale o ...more
Neven
Feb 06, 2013 Neven rated it liked it
Nunn's books are often quite dark, bleak, and downright unpleasant, and this one is no exception. 'The Dogs of Winter' bugged me more than usual, though, because it's punctuated with particularly vile crimes and tragedies. If you've read Richard Price's heartbreaking 'Freedomland', you know what sort of thing I mean.

On top of it, Nunn's signature style is muted here. I, for one, really enjoyed his florid descriptions in 'Tapping the Source' and 'Tijuana Straits', so this book read a bit flat to
...more
Vicki
Grim but compelling read based on a true story. Abandoned on the streets of Moscow at the age of five, Ivan is adopted by a pack of dogs on whom Ivan becomes dependent for his survival. The dogs protect him against roving street gangs and the the military, while Ivan earns coins through begging to buy food to feed himself and the dogs. A heart wrenching survival story, all the more poignant because it is rooted in a brutal part of Russian history.
Larry
Jun 24, 2012 Larry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seafaring
This novel is a great entry into the strange and wonderful genre of surfing literature, a literary adventure/thriller which involves surfing the frigid waters of California's remote northwest coves. Even for those who've never surfed, this book will make you feel as if you have. Besides being a chilling page-turner, the prose is beautiful, featuring sympathetic characters and some astonishing scenes of riding the waves.
JodiP
Aug 27, 2016 JodiP rated it liked it
Recommended by Nancy Nall. Well, I had no idea there was a whole genre of surfing novels. I liked Nunn's taut writing style. I just couldn't get into the story--and that's about me, not the story or the author. There is a strong Native cultural aspect, complete with talk of shamans and bad influences that just don't ring true for me. Perhaps I'm ignorant, or my storng atheism won't let me get past this, butI found it eye-roll-inducing.
Josh
Mar 23, 2011 Josh rated it really liked it
I love this guy's novels, known as 'surf noir.' Great characters, unpredictable but satisfying plots, fantastic descriptions of landscape & the sensations/culture of surfing (which are very hard to articulate this well)... And I'm pretty sure they'd be just as enjoyable for someone who doesn't have a prior interest in surfing. Give him a try if you like noir-ish mystery or just good, gritty fiction.
John
Oct 21, 2015 John rated it liked it
Found a copy of this in a coffee shop in Pacific City, OR and dove in as it was surf related. It was certainly worth the time. There were definitely some insights into what drives folks in outdoor sports, but as is often the case it at times felt clumsy. For some reason nearly all fiction related to outdoor sports at times feels awkward to me. Regardless I found this entertaining. Apologies for the short review. If I could I would give it 3.5 stars.
Jennifer Gehle
Nov 29, 2013 Jennifer Gehle rated it it was ok
Since I loves Tapping the Source so much, I thought this novel would be a shoe in for a favorite of mine, but this wasn't the case. I pushed through this novel but the mysteriousness and underground world I expected to find was really not touchable and easily looked over. Nunn's descriptive efforts are still good but the story itself doesn't have the same interest and depth that tapping the source did
Brian
Jan 16, 2014 Brian rated it liked it
Nunn can describe surfing as such a religious experience, it makes you want to go to California and become one of his filthy, booze-soaked, drug-addled, deadbeat characters. This one didn't hook me as hard as Tapping the Source or Tijuana Straits, but it was still very good.
Carlos
Nov 29, 2015 Carlos rated it it was amazing
A strikingly good evocation of an area I am familiar with, the north coast of California. It's not the landscape, it is the people, though Nunn doesn't fail the scenery either. It is the combination of pot-growing hippies, American Indians, Vietnam vets and surfers that resonates. There is a plot and a mystery but it is the excellence of his writing that holds your attention.
Damon Isherwood
Mar 28, 2014 Damon Isherwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really a thriller, but written against a surfing backdrop. Incredibly evocative of northern californian, the drizzle and pine trees, the cold waters and their mystical waves. Tough plots, and often bleak depictions of humanity, but Nunn is one of those writers who is an unabashed romantic at heart and so all his books have good endings.
Richp
Oct 10, 2015 Richp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not an ordinary novel. It is not as weird as Philip Dick's books, but it is still well out of the mainstream.

I thought it was quite good overall.

Don't spend too much time trying to figure out the geography. The Klamath River is real, and the Yurok and Hupa reservations do exist on it. The rest is largely invented or transplanted from elsewhere.
Ron
Aug 05, 2011 Ron rated it it was amazing
Part noirish surf mystery, part journey of a young man seeking wisdom from a guru, but mostly the almost mystical--Nunn also created the short-lived but brilliant TV series, John From Cincinatti--tale of a middle aged surfer coming to terms with his mortality. A deep, probing work of genius that is essential reading for any male approaching middle-age.
Tom Goelz
Jun 05, 2012 Tom Goelz rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. Dark as a fog enshrouded northwest coastline. I was sorry when this one ended. Lots of side trails not fully taken that I wanted to explore a bit more. Visually evocative - easy to get lost in the uncertainty of the journey, knowing where you are without understanding where that actually is.
Emily Crow
Aug 25, 2013 Emily Crow rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-hated
Another reviewer commented on how ugly this story is, which was also my impression. I was sorry I read it. One scene in particular really bothered me with its pointless violence; if it wasn't for that, I would probably have given two stars, as the writing itself isn't bad.
Shawn
Oct 24, 2007 Shawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark and gloomy, but still oddly compelling. Kem Nunn is gifted at bringing broken characters to life and capturing the atmospheric worlds they live in. This book was no exception to that. Plus, there's super, mysto surfing.
furious
Feb 27, 2008 furious rated it it was amazing
Recommended to furious by: john monad
Shelves: mines, gen-fic, noir
wow. compelling & engrossing. i tore thru most of this while on my own quest for mysto spots along the northern california coast. nunn manages to meld the best elements of modern lit & classic crime/noir. this is a dark road, surely, but such is the road to redemption.
John
Apr 15, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best surf noir books ever. Story of iconoclast big wave surfer gone to the Northwest to make his last stand with his girlfriend. A washed up surf photographer rises to the bait to capture the secret break on film. Indian culture and pathos thread into the mix. Excellent!
Sylvia
Apr 20, 2008 Sylvia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in big wave surfing.
Towards the end it got a little erratic, but then it pulled together. All in all, well written and fascinating, a graphic look into cultures, histories and lifestyles I am less familiar with, but felt I got to know well through Nunn's descriptions and rhetoric.
Jason Dearen
Aug 29, 2008 Jason Dearen rated it liked it
Surf literature is not an oxymoron. Set in the redwoods of the Northern Coast of Calif. Nunn creates a noir classic set in the world of big wave surfers in a gorgeous, mysterious (or "mysto" in surf lingo) world.
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Kem Nunn (born 1948) is an American fiction novelist, surfer, magazine and television writer from California. His novels have been described as "surf-noir" for their dark themes, political overtones and surf settings. He is the author of five novels, including his seminal surf novel Tapping the Source. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Irvine.

He has collaborated with producer David Mi
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