Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Tapping the Source” as Want to Read:
Tapping the Source
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Tapping the Source

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  864 ratings  ·  109 reviews
People go to Huntington Beach in search of the endless parties, the ultimate highs and the perfect waves. Ike Tucker has come to look for his missing sister and for the three men who may have murdered her. In that place of gilded surfers and sun-bleached blondes, Ike's search takes him on a journey through a twisted world of crazed Vietnam vets, sadistic surfers, drug deal ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 30th 2005 by Thunder's Mouth Press (first published January 1st 1984)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Tapping the Source, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Tapping the Source

Liquid Comfort - A Surf Story by Cheryl Lee PetroCaught Inside by Daniel DuaneTapping the Source by Kem NunnIn Search of Captain Zero by Allan WeisbeckerThe Tribes of Palos Verdes by Joy Nicholson
Best Books on Surfing for Surfers
3rd out of 64 books — 41 voters
Twilight by Stephenie MeyerThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakWater for Elephants by Sara GruenTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Must Reads in 2009
76th out of 122 books — 267 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,522)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Delee

In my youth I used to listen to The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean sing about Southern California- the beautiful girls and boys, the surf, the sand...sun sun sun...fun fun fun. Everyone was smiling...everyone was friendly...no one had a care in the world.

This novel is NOT The Beach Boys or Jan and Dean's version of The Huntington Beach surf culture...far from it. While they were STILL singing Surfin' Safari and Surf City -during the 70s and 80s- serial killers and rapists were using the beaches as
...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 28, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of real page-turners
Recommended to Ivonne by: Delee, of course!
Skinny sad sack Ike Tucker, not yet 19 years old, takes the Greyhound bus nearly eight hours to Huntington Beach, Calif., to search for his wild runaway sister Ellen, who ran away a year ago. All he has is a crumpled piece of paper with three names and a garbled account of a trip his sister took with those three men to Mexico. Thus, a young man who has lived nowhere but a tiny desert town discovers inner strength and a working knowledge of the ways of the world — including the underworld and the ...more
Lisa
First of all, I just want to say I have the world's greatest, loveliest goodreads friends. They are smart and classy ladies with great taste in books who respect differing opinions with grace. These gals loved this book and gave it five stars and glowing reviews. Those are the reviews you should probably be reading. This one is from a tired stay-at-home mama who has admittedly odd taste in literature. Anyway, here's my review:

I didn't like this. I couldn't get myself to care about these characte
...more
Kandice
Well, I didn't see that coming!!!! 2.5 stars...

Eighteen year old, Ike Tucker is on a mission to find out what happened to his sister, Ellen, who up and left their desert home. After being tipped off, he heads to Huntington Beach, CA. with nothing more than a few hundred bucks and the names of 3 men who were intimately connected with Ellen. Ike is cautious and befriends some local surfers, keeping his motives at bay. Over time, he begins putting pieces of the puzzle together or so he thinks…

I r
...more
Shek
This is touted as the best ever surfing novel, or a pre-eminent example of "surf noir", and I'm pretty sure it's the only novel I've read that fits easily into either category. They don't tell you this, but it's also a great example of a novel that's running along fine and then suddenly plunges off a cliff. I mean, what the hell was that with the [spoiler]? And the [major spoiler]? That didn't even make any sense! A poorly explained tangent into the realm of [spoiler] aside, it's a fine, well-pu ...more
Jenna
I hate using the word "gritty" in relation to books, particularly in this case where it seems to be the default reviewers' adjective, along with "noir" and "sun-bleached."

But gritty she be. This is a gritty, dirty, greasy novel. If it were an object poem it would be cigarette butts, surf wax, warm Mountain Dew, hot sand and lubricated engine parts. Mmm. Lots of drugs, fistfights, yucky sex, culty violence, male bonding, formative mystical experiences, lost youth. It didn't leave me feeling good
...more
Kirk
Interesting contrast to Don Winslow's The Dawn Patrol in the small world of surf noir. Winslow's book is a little too cartoonish, with characters that could have come out of a USA Network series c. 1994 (Hey, remember Pacific Blue?). This one seems a little ponderous. That's probably a reflection of style. Thirty years ago you could have your characters self-interrogate themselves as a way of mapping for the reader the development in both character and plot. But now it seems sorta silly for char ...more
William Johnson
With the exception of a small snippet of a dialogue at the very end that is still rattling around in my brain in regards to the 'whodunnit' (which I am still a little confused about), this book is pretty flawless.

To start, it utilizes world building like the best in the business, creating a tense, dangerous yet real world location and inhabiting it with well drawn, conflicted characters who all have their high and low points.

Inside this well built universe is an evolution of the main character,
...more
Trevor John
There are three elements driving this train wreck (well, okay, no train leaves the station as a wreck) and they are surfing, coming of age, and crime. Like Mr. Loaf said, "Two out of three ain't bad". Wow, I really just wrote that. Having limited experience in all three elements, I can attest to each being true to life and well written, and I especially liked the narrator as conscience style applied to it all. I did not like the retarded turn of events that took what was looking like a great nov ...more
Seth
Kem Nunn wrote a pretty decent unconventional detective story here. Set in the ever mystical backdrop of Huntington Beach California, a troubled young man from the desert leaves his home and goes seeking answers after being told that his runaway sister had probably been murdered. What drew me to this novel was that it served as the "inspiration" for one of my favorite junk action movies from the 1990's "Point Break"
Inspiration is by far the most appropriate term to use. This isn't a story about
...more
Katie
What a fun book! I keep seeing it categorized as "surf noir" ---which is probably true but it seems like kind of an absurd category (how can something be noir when it's so sunny out?), but all of the over-the-top dramatic lines are very in the theme of noir! The book reminded me of when I went to the U.S. Open a few years ago---all of the sponsor representatives were passing out lots of flyers and stickers and junk on the pier, and they were handing out this big sticker that had the "Top 10 Best ...more
Craig Terlson
I wanted to like this book, I tried my damn best, I did. Loved the premise, the whole surf-noir thing - and having recently written a novel with a similar setting and themes, (noir/surf/missing persons) well, what was not to like? Heard too much about it, had to read it.

The book starts out strong, and I liked the main character, Ike. I rooted for him (this would change). The writing was decent, poetic in stretches, notably whenever surfing, waves, and water happened - throw in the sun and sky an
...more
Felix Zilich
“Оседлать волну” - лучший роман про серфинг и один из лучших неонуаров 80-х. Половина отзывов на эту книгу начинаются с одной из этих реплик. остальные - зверски спойлерят концовку, за что их тихо, но благодарно ненавидишь. Глядишь, не будь спойлера - прошёл бы мимо.

Белобрысый парень на “шевроле” приезжает в маленький пустынный городок в Аризоне в поисках брата девушки по имени Эллен Такер. Я был знаком с этой чикой, - говорит приезжий, - она связалась с плохими парнями, поехала с ними в Мексик
...more
Johnny
I had heard about this book for quite some time. Now I know why.

A great read, it works as a surfing novel, a crime novel and a coming-of-age story. The three come together to create not only an original world, but a story that is both gripping and never predictable.

It allows all the characters to find both the dark and light sides of their humanity. The relationships between characters are immediately complex and real.

I highly recommend TAPPING THE SOURCE. Well-written, insightful, and a blast.
Ben Loory
when robert stone blurbs a book, i listen. "the all-time great surfing novel," okay i'm in. turns out those fuckers who made point break were all over this book. which is neither here nor there i suppose. anyway, this is a good, well-written book with a crappy ending (which involves (perhaps feigned) satanism), but not really very much about surfing. more about life in huntington beach, infiltrating a drug gang, etc. coming of age, yadda yadda yadda.

still though, made me want to surf. still.
Court Merrigan
I have a minor interest in surfing so that, on Spinetingler Mag's suggestion, I read TAPPING THE SOURCE, the novel that inspired POINT BREAK. mixed feelings. So ... slow ... paced. And the action scenes are not particularly well-rendered. And the uber-80s satanic ritual cult stuff has not aged well. But the descriptions of being out on the water are very good, and Ike's an interesting lost boy. Interesting to think back to a time when Huntington Beach was a gritty, low-rent, oil-well infested, p ...more
Lenny Husen
The best coming of age novel I've ever read. Gritty, extremely well read, themes of murder, corruption, cheap sex, drugs, a boy loses the one person he has ever loved, his sister, and embarks on a quest to find her. Beautifully written, unforgettable. Every teenager and young adult in the USA should read this book.
Cyanemi
I love the surf noir genre. I don't know how many books are in the genre but I wish there were more. The show, John From Cincinatti got me started on Kem Nunn because the show was a surf noir show and I think Kem Nunn was involved with the production. Sun surf blonds and lots of sordidness.
Sarah
I would give it a 2.5 if I could. To say there is twist in this plot is an understatement. Towards the end, the plot line jumps off a cliff and into a very dark, seedy and bizarre underworld, then lands in a puddle. Not deep enough for the ocean.
Simon Plaster
Very solid little piece of west coast noir. Kem Nunn does a great job of setting up a menacing atmosphere, and you just know there's all kinds of nefarious activity taking place underneath the surface of "Surf City". My main gripe is that I never got totally invested in the characters. They were strong enough to hold my interest but I didn't feel that all-out sense of suspense about who would live or die by the story's end. Despite that, the excellent mood and tension makes it worth a read. An e ...more
Monica Nolan
A friend from my writer's group recommended this, as a well-written thriller. She was absolutely correct. A page-turner with sex and violence galore that is also kind of reflective and lyrical. It's that tone that manages to make even satanic cult sacrifices semi-plausible. Plus where else are you going to find a murder mystery set against a backdrop of surfing? The Keanu Reeves movie Point Break is supposedly based on this book but the plot is completely different. The movie just used the surfe ...more
Stephen Sanders
At its core Tapping the Source is a meditation on loneliness. Ike Turner, a kid from California's Inland Empire, comes to Huntington Beach in search of his sister. He quickly becomes caught in Southern California's surfing culture and takes solace among the waves as he learns to surf. There's something pure and true about the ocean in Nunn's novel. However, that purity has been corrupted by a decaying surfing culture.

This corruption of purity is a central theme in the novel. Ike searches throug
...more
Ken Samuels
Aug 02, 2007 Ken Samuels rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Surf Noirists
Imagine Nathanael West trying to hang ten or Raymond Chandler shaking the sand out of his shorts and you've got an idea of the feel of Tapping the Source. Author Kem Nunn is firmly in the West, Chandler tradition of presenting Southern California as the end of the line for the Great American Dream. In this case The Dream is wiping out in the surf near the piers of Huntington Beach.

What begins as an innocent young desert kid's search for his footloose sister develops into a soul expanding and dep
...more
Rod
A gripping, dark, moody, atmospheric, suspenseful story. It's my kind of mystery in that, on review, not a whole lot happened, and yet it is an existential page-turner. As with many mysteries, the "resolution" is something less than the build-up. I'd always heard this was a classic and was moved to read it after seeing Nunn's name on Sons of Anarchy. I would definitely read more of his (and I see there's a new one out).
Catfat
Un chouette petit bouquin, j'ai bien aimé être dans la peau de cet adolescent. J'ai ressenti ça moi aussi à 17 ans, que rien n'avait d'importance. J'ai bu la tasse avec lui, j'ai eu envie de me mettre au surf, de ressentir tout cela. J'ai moins aimé la fin, je ne m'attendais pas à ça et j'ai trouvé que cela tombait comme un cheveu sur la soupe. En revanche j'ai aimé la love story, si pure malgré tout, entre le héros et sa princesse ! On est pris dans l'histoire, on se laisse porter, c'est extrêm ...more
Jennifer Gehle
This is one of my all time favorites and have read it several times now. It's supposed to be the basis of "breaking point", but is so far from the movie, it could be considered two completely different entities. The main character lives in a hodunk desert town who's sister ran away a couple years ago. A young man drives to the town to tell the main that his sister went off with a couple of surfers and never came back. He leaves the only home he's ever known to get into the surfer life "undercove ...more
Daniel Clay
I stumbled across this book years ago - given to me as part of a gift set, I think, and I've read it three times since. Nunn's debut - I've read two more of his since and, for me, he hasn't come close to reproducing anything of this quality - is dark and brooding and has been credited with creating a whole sub-genre of books (surf noire). In many ways, though, it's a novel about a main character breaking away from his past and reinventing himself; using the suspicious disappearance of his older ...more
Michelle
Very original story..

The author is really good at developing the characters [and trust me there are all kinds in this book:].

It is really neat how surfing, bikers, 70's lifestyle and mystery are interweaved in the novel. The author also does a great job at keeping you in the dark about how the story will unfold but he gives you enough to where you can't stop turning the pages.

It is also written in sort of a different style. The main character is Ike and it is his story or being told from his poi
...more
Robert Vertrees
Dec 31, 2007 Robert Vertrees rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys surfing or surf novels, or 1970's era drugs and snuff porn
I had high expectations and was slightly disappointed by this novel, but I finished it and, coming from me, that is a huge stamp of approval. This was Kem Nunn's first novel. Kem's written for HBO's "Deadwood" and was responsible for the ill-fated "John from Cincinnati." I didn't watch much "Deadwood" but as in "John" and another novel of his, "The Dogs of Winter," it seems Kem can't help himself from delving into the occult. I love his unsympathetic gritty drama but I hate it when he unnecessar ...more
AJ Henning
Picked this up partly based on a friend's goodreads review, partly because I'm a big fan of Nunn's show "John From Cincinnati". Had very little idea what to expect but taking the plunge into the unknown worked very well with this book. More and more is revealed over time, both about character and place and plot, and while there was no Son Of God-like surfer aliens or floating retired surfers, this is a story that allowed itself to get darker and weirder and more and more out there as the book go ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 50 51 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast
  • The Dawn Patrol (Boone Daniels #1)
  • In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road
  • The Tribes of Palos Verdes
  • Mixed Blood: A Thriller
  • All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora
  • Black Wings Has My Angel
  • White Shadow
  • Bordersnakes
  • The Blonde
  • Runaway Man: A Mystery (Benjy Golden, #1)
  • I Was Dora Suarez
  • Available Dark
  • Bad Penny Blues
  • Tower
  • Black Hornet (Lew Griffin, #3)
  • Mr. Clarinet (Max Mingus, #1)
  • This Wicked World: A Novel
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
...more
More about Kem Nunn...
Tijuana Straits Dogs of Winter Chance Pomona Queen Unassigned Territory

Share This Book