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The Dogs of Winter

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  645 Ratings  ·  68 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 of ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Scribner (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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J. Kent Messum
When someone mentions a 'thriller' novel, I'll wager that a book about California surfers doesn't spring to mind. Well, hold on to your surfboards, because Kem Nunn can show you a dark side to riding waves you never knew existed.

Fletcher, a down-on-his-luck photographer, receives an unexpected call from a surfing magazine he once worked for (and blew his future chances with), telling him he can get back to business if he'll take two young pro surfers up to a remote part of the California coast
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
Scott Foshee
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I read it every night and always put it down content. A burned out former surf photographer gets a chance to get back in the game when he is specifically requested to do a photo shoot by a recluse legendary surfer. The characters were believable, the plot moved along, and the end was fitting. It wasn't a book that "I couldn't put down" or I had to tell all of my friends about. It was just a story I was content in reading. It did take a weird dark turn at one point th ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Spellbinding... hard to put down! An extraordinary book!

Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping story. Evocative imagery. Objective coverage of surf community issues with gender and culture. Memorable novel.
Greg Jolley
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly colored and wide story. Thank you, Robin and Jamie at Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookshop for suggesting this!
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this. Nunn's work with David Milch and the fact that Point Break was based, very loosely, on his first novel made me pick this up when I saw it at a Goodwill location. It was a good impulse buy.

As a person born and raised in the upper, rural reaches of Northern California, Nunn's rendering of the setting rings true, particularly the ever-changing road conditions of the coastal Pacific Northwest and impact deindustrialization/neoliberalism, climate change, and overfishing of the
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mihai Giurgiulescu
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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