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Winslow begins final book tour

Author wants to devout more time to politics

By HILLEL ITALIE, Associated Press
Published: April 6, 2024, 5:28am

NEW YORK — Don Winslow, embarking on what he calls his final book tour, had a feeling he might not keep it together

“It’s a little bit of a bittersweet evening for me,” he said Monday, speaking before some 40 admirers at The Mysterious Bookshop in downtown Manhattan, one of the city’s last stores dedicated entirely to crime narratives. “I am obviously much too macho to shed a tear or anything like that — tough guy crime writer. But I might.”

Winslow, 70, has announced that his new novel, “City in Ruins,” will be his last. He’s not burned out or ill or out of ideas. He has other priorities — one priority: the defeat of Donald Trump, whom the author regularly attacks through statements and videos on social media.

“What I fear very much is happening in this country,” he says of the possibility Trump will return to the White House. “I need a more immediate sort of address than is available in a novel.”

On Monday, he sounded very much like an active author, explaining his typical writing day — up at 4:45 a.m., a pot of coffee, a round of newspapers, then hours of work. But he also was thinking about the past and how to say goodbye, remembering all the jobs he took on, from private investigator to a tour guide in Kenya, and the many publishers who turned him down.

The Mysterious Bookshop is a special stop along the way. He first read there in the early 1990s, when he was promoting his debut novel, “A Cool Breeze on the Underground,” and has returned many times. During the reading, he called out thanks to the store’s owner, Otto Penzler.

“I think we’re the ones thanking you for being here,” Penzler responded.

It happened. Winslow chokes up, turns away.

“I can’t look at Otto,” he says as he again faces the audience.

Winslow feels, for now, the time is right for quitting. “City in Ruins” completes a trilogy featuring dockworker/crime boss/Hollywood investor Danny Ryan that began 30 years ago — and he is enjoying strong early feedback. The book is in the top 200 on Amazon.com and has been widely praised. The Washington Post called “City in Ruins” a “sweeping story that morphs and expands over time.” Associated Press reviewer Bruce Da Silva, himself a crime novelist who shares Winslow’s Rhode Island background, wrote that the book is a “masterpiece,” citing Winslow’s “compelling characters, his vivid prose, and his exploration of universal themes.”

Winslow enjoys the attention, but said he needs to “graciously get off the stage and make room for other people.” Also, he confided, “I am not young.”

Winslow is the author of more than 20 novels, including “Power of the Dog,” “Savages” and the uncanny border saga “The Cartel,” featuring the escape of an El Chapo-like drug lord that came out just as El Chapo himself broke out from prison in 2015 — a coincidence so remarkable that Winslow claims his publisher suspected he and El Chapo had plotted it together.

A slender, earnest man wearing a stylish dark jacket and matching slacks, Winslow is a onetime upstart who can’t believe he gets paid for what used to get him in trouble — daydreaming and dirty words. His epitaph could easily be “I can’t believe my own luck.” He calls himself “an overnight success” who broke through in his 50s, when he was finally able to give up his many day jobs. In recent years, his books have been bestsellers that have attracted film and television directors, including Oliver Stone’s adaptation of “Savages” and a planned film based on another Danny Ryan book, “City on Fire,” with Austin Butler playing Ryan.

Penzler says he’s long admired Winslow, and how his research in “The Cartel” and other novels made him feel like he was right there with the author’s characters. But he wonders about Winslow’s supposed departure. He’s heard this story before.

“I know almost every mystery writer in America, and all of them at one time or another, say, ‘I think this is it. I think I’m done.’ Half the time it’s just nothing,” Penzler says. “Don’s a little more thoughtful. He probably believes this at the moment, but let’s talk again in five years.”

Winslow, acknowledges that not everyone is convinced he’s done. Friends give him “knowing looks.” Even his wife is doubtful, he says. But for the moment he can think of nothing else but advocating against Trump. Asked what he’d do with his free time should President Joe Biden win, he says he struggles to think past the November election.

“I think I’ll always write, but I don’t think I’ll always publish,” he says.