Winslow offers a prequel for his drug-war epic Savages (2010).
The year 2005 finds Ben Leonard and his buddy Chon doing what they do best: helping Orange County get high on Ben’s custom-bred hydroponic grass. So successful is their business, in fact, that Duane Crowe, of The Association, pays Ben a visit gently suggesting that they either submit a monthly charge to the established network of importers or take their business elsewhere. Chon is not the person to take this challenge lying down, and soon he’s struck preemptively at a couple of Association minnows he unwisely leaves alive—a decision that acts like the starting gun at a marathon. Quick as a sentence fragment, Winslow is piling on the violence, the flashbacks to an earlier generation of Southern California surfers and hippies, and the one-word paragraphs, as he makes a strong bid for the James Ellroy Award for Self-Indulgent Prose. Since fans know that Ben and Chon and their childhood friend O-for-Ophelia will still be around to peddle primo product in Savages, The Association’s threats don’t carry the menace they would outside the wonderful world of prequels, and readers are free to enjoy the proceedings as deliriously overgalvanized, intermittently hilarious ritual. The walk-ons who pop up just long enough to get caught in the crossfire are too interchangeable for tears, and not even Chon’s deployment to Afghanistan and his encounter with a bomb are cause for alarm.
The only blemish in the blood bath is the pretense, late on in the proceedings, that Chon and O are learning something important about their fathers. Sorry, gang, but you’re in the wrong pew.