Don Winslow

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don Winslow
Winslow in 2015
Winslow in 2015
Born (1953-10-31) October 31, 1953 (age 70)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln
GenreCrime fiction, mystery fiction, historical fiction
Notable worksNeal Carey Mysteries, The Cartel Series
Jean Winslow
(m. 1985)

Don Winslow (born October 31, 1953) is an American author[1][2] best known for his crime novels including Savages, The Force and the Cartel Trilogy.

Early life[edit]

Winslow was born on October 31, 1953, in New York City.[3] He grew up in Perryville, a beach town near the village of Matunuck, Rhode Island.[4][5][6] He credits his parents for preparing him to become a writer: his mother was a librarian and his father was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Navy who told stories and invited Navy friends around who told more. They inspired Winslow to become a storyteller himself.[5] He majored in African history at the University of Nebraska.[3] While in college, he traveled to southern Africa, sparking a lifelong involvement with that continent.

Winslow's travels took him to California, Idaho and Montana before he moved to New York City to become a writer, making his living as a movie theater manager and later a private investigator in Times Square – ‘before Mickey Mouse took it over’. He left to get a master's degree in military history and intended to go into the Foreign Service but instead joined a friend's photographic safari firm in Kenya. He led trips there as well as hiking expeditions in southwestern China, and later directed Shakespeare productions during summers in Oxford, England.[7]


While traveling between Asia, Africa, Europe and America, Winslow wrote his first novel, A Cool Breeze on the Underground, which was nominated for an Edgar Award and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel.[8] With a wife and young son, Winslow went back to investigative work, mostly in California, where he and his family lived in hotels for almost three years as he worked cases and became a trial consultant.

Winslow's second book, The Trail to Buddha’s Mirror, continued the Neal Carey saga. He followed that up with three more Neal Carey novels, Way Down on the High Lonely, for which he was a Dilys Award finalist, A Long Walk Up the Water Slide, and While Drowning in the Desert.

For his next novel, Winslow broke from the Neal Carey character to write the standalone Isle of Joy, about an ex-CIA agent who is pulled back into the world of espionage, this time as the target of his former agency and the FBI.

A film and publishing deal for his novel The Death and Life of Bobby Z, also a Barry Award finalist, for Best Novel, allowed Winslow to become a full-time writer and settle in his beloved California, the setting for many of his books.[9]

Branching into television, Winslow, with his friend and agent Shane Salerno, co-created the NBC television series UC/Undercover. The series ran one season and aired 13 episodes.[10]

Winslow then published the Shamus Award finalist California Fire and Life, and Looking for a Hero.[8]

In 2005, Winslow published what would become the first book in his epic “Cartel Trilogy,” The Power of the Dog, about obsessive DEA Agent Art Keller's quest to take down an El Chapo-esque Sinaloan cartel. The book earned rave reviews around the world and was a finalist for the Barry, Macavity, Hammett, and Dilys awards.[8]

Winslow then wrote The Winter of Frankie Machine, which garnered interest all over Hollywood and was eventually bought by Paramount Pictures for Robert De Niro to star in and Martin Scorsese to direct. During the development phase, screenwriter Eric Roth gave De Niro a book to read as research for the role. De Niro became so enthralled with that book – I Heard You Paint Houses – that he and Scorsese ended up adapting it into The Irishman. Winslow took it all in stride, even penning a humorous article on Deadline Hollywood jokingly titled “I Blame Eric Roth.”[11]

Winslow followed Frankie Machine with the first of his two Boone Daniels books, Dawn Patrol. Winslow was yet again a finalist for the Barry and Dilys Awards.[8]

In 2010, Winslow published Savages, which was voted a top-10 book of the year by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Chicago Sun Times, and author Stephen King, and was a Barry, Dilys, and Steel Dagger Award finalist.[8] The rights were quickly scooped up by award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone. Winslow and Shane Salerno adapted the screenplay, and the film went on to star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, and John Travolta.[12]  

After Savages, Winslow returned to the world of ultra-California cool cop-turned-PI Boone Daniels in The Gentlemen’s Hour. The book was a 2010 finalist for the Gold Dagger Award.[8]

In 2011, Winslow wrote another standalone, Satori, a prequel to Trevanian’s 1979 novel Shibumi. Winslow again earned rave reviews from critics and colleagues alike. Satori was purchased by Warner Brothers and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way for DiCaprio to produce and star.[13]

The following year, Winslow returned to the world of Savages, writing the prequel The Kings of Cool. Yet again, his book was a Gold Dagger finalist for Best Crime Novel of the Year.[8]

2012 also saw Winslow given the prestigious Raymond Chandler Award, Italy's top lifetime achievement honor for masters of the thriller and noir literary genre. Past recipients have included Stephen King, John Le Carré, John Grisham, and Elmore Leonard.

In 2015, Winslow published the second book in his Cartel Trilogy, The Cartel. The book was an international success, earning starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, landing on Best Books of the Year lists for over sixty publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, and many others. Fellow novelists Stephen King, Michael Connelly, James Ellroy, and Harlan Coben also raved about The Cartel, naming it one of Winslow's best. The book went on to win the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, the RBA International Prize for Crime Writing, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize.[8]

For his follow up the smash hit The Cartel, Winslow wrote another standalone, The Force, tackling corruption in the deepest recesses of the NYPD. The Force was another smashing success and named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, NPR, Barnes & Noble, Publishers Weekly, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail, Booklist, and LitHub. In a seven-figure deal, Fox purchased the film rights for James Mangold to direct Matt Damon in a script adapted by award-winning screenwriter Scott Frank.[14]  

In 2019, Winslow published the third and final installment of his epic Cartel Trilogy, The Border. Critics raved about the conclusion to the sprawling saga and it was named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, The Irish Times, Booklist, and many others. The film rights to the trilogy had originally been purchased by 20th Century Fox but in 2019, due to the sprawling nature of the story and world therein, FX Networks acquired the rights from their sister studio to turn the novels into a TV series. Filming on the pilot is set to begin in late-2022.[15]

After concluding his Cartel Trilogy, Winslow published Broken, a collection of six short novellas all centered around the themes of crime, corruption, vengeance, justice, loss, and betrayal. Broken also earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

Winslow's next novel, City on Fire, is the first book in a planned trilogy about the feuding Moretti and Murphy crime families in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1980s and 1990s.[16][17] The novel received critical acclaim and its screen rights were acquired by Sony to be adapted into a television series.[18]

In addition to his novels, Winslow has published numerous short stories in anthologies and magazines such as Esquire, The Los Angeles Times Magazine and Playboy. His columns have appeared in the Vanity Fair, Vulture, Huffington Post, CNN Online, and other outlets.

In April 2022, Winslow announced his retirement from writing, to focus on his political video-making and activism. His City on Fire sequels will be his final books.[19]

Political activism[edit]

During the 2020 presidential election, Winslow became politically active online, using his own money to champion liberal causes and criticize Donald Trump and his agenda. Winslow and Shane Salerno began creating political videos critical of the Trump administration for social media. On October 13, 2020, Don Winslow Films released a video critical of Trump prior to his campaign event in Pennsylvania. The video features Bruce Springsteen's song "Streets of Philadelphia" and has been viewed almost 10 million times. As of January 4, 2021, Winslow's videos had garnered over 135 million views.[20] As of April 2022, the total view count was over 250 million.[21]

A libel lawsuit was filed against Winslow on the basis of comments Winslow made in 2020 about an Irwin County Detention Center contractor, who Winslow had claimed performed illegal hysterectomies purportedly done at the direction of Donald Trump. In 2022 a district court ruled that the libel claims could go forward.[22]

Writing process[edit]

Winslow said he writes from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then hikes six or seven miles before returning to work. He typically works on two books at a time, moving to the other when work on the first stalls. He said the longest he has gone without writing after a book is completed was five days. He has described writing as "an addiction".[3][6][23]

The time it takes him to write a book varies. The Death and Life of Bobby Z was written on the train between Dana Point, California and Los Angeles, one chapter per trip.[3][5] The Power of the Dog took six years to research and write, including a trip to Mexico to interview people with similar experiences as the book's characters.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Winslow's career as an investigator often took him to California to look into arson cases, as his storytelling skills helped explain cases to juries. In the mid-1990s, he moved to California with his wife, Jean, and their infant son, Thomas, and continued writing. They currently split their time between Julian, California,[3][6] and Rhode Island.


Neal Carey series[edit]

  • A Cool Breeze on the Underground (1991)[25]
  • The Trail to Buddha's Mirror (1992)[26]
  • Way Down on the High Lonely (1993)[27]
  • A Long Walk Up the Water Slide (1994)[28]
  • While Drowning in the Desert (1996)[29]

The Cartel series[edit]

Boone Daniels series[edit]

  • The Dawn Patrol (2008)[33]
  • The Gentlemen's Hour (2009)[34]

Savages series[edit]

Frank Decker series[edit]

  • 2014: Missing. New York (2014; not published in English)
  • 2016: Germany (2016; not published in English)

Danny Ryan series[edit]

  • City on Fire (2022)
  • City of Dreams (2023)
  • City in Ruins (2024)

Standalone novels[edit]



  • 2004: Looking for a Hero (with Peter Maslowski), ISBN 978-0-8032-3244-0[48]

Film, television, scripts, screenplays and video games[edit]


Upcoming adaptations


Winslow won the 2012 Raymond Chandler Award at the Courmayeur Noir Festival. Previous winners include John le Carré, John Grisham and Michael Connelly.[54]


  1. ^ Evans, Greg (April 25, 2022). "Author Don Winslow Announces Retirement From Book Writing To Focus On Political Videos". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  2. ^ Janet Maslin (July 7, 2010). "Books of The Times – New-Wave Drug Dealers in Don Winslow's Savages". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Hi. My name is Don Winslow, and I'm a writing addict" Archived 2010-08-20 at the Wayback Machine, by John Wilkens, San Diego Union-Tribune, June 8, 2008. Retrieved July 07, 2010.
  4. ^ "Bio" Archived March 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Don Winslow's Official Website. Retrieved July 07, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "Surfing shamus", by Scott Timberg, June 09, 2008, Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 07, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c "Don Winslow on Surf Noir, Appeal Of Crime Fiction", by Jeffrey A. Trachtenbert, May 23, 2008, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 07, 2010.
  7. ^ "Book Don Winslow | Speakers Bureau | Booking Agent Info". Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Don Winslow". Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  9. ^ "The Death and Life of Bobby Z", Wikipedia, January 10, 2022, retrieved March 12, 2022
  10. ^ "UC: Undercover", Wikipedia, September 24, 2021, retrieved March 12, 2022
  11. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 8, 2020). "Don Winslow's Take On Scorsese & De Niro Doing 'The Irishman' Over 'Frankie Machine:' 'I Blame Eric Roth'". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 22, 2011). "John Travolta, Uma Thurman And Blake Lively Join 'Savages' Cast". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  13. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (October 3, 2011). "Warner Bros Acquires Post-WWII Don Winslow Novel 'Satori' For Leonardo DiCaprio". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  14. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 22, 2020). "Matt Damon To Re-Team With 'Ford V Ferrari' Helmer James Mangold On Don Winslow Novel 'The Force'". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  15. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (March 7, 2019). "FX To Turn Don Winslow's Epic Cartel Drug War Novel Trilogy Into TV Series". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  16. ^ "City on Fire by Don Winslow". Kirkus Reviews. June 29, 2021. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  17. ^ Schaub, Michael (May 27, 2021). "Don Winslow To Launch New Crime Trilogy in Fall". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  18. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 1, 2021). "Don Winslow's 'City On Fire' Crime Saga Trilogy Acquired In Mid-7 Figure Outright Purchase By Sony & Elizabeth Gabler's 3000 Pictures". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  19. ^ Evans, Greg (April 25, 2022). "Author Don Winslow Announces Retirement From Book Writing To Focus On Political Videos". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  20. ^ McNamara, Mary (January 4, 2021). "Column: The anti-Trump videos that set Twitter on fire". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  21. ^ Preston, Alex (April 16, 2022). "Don Winslow: 'I'm a cupcake. I certainly couldn't be a leg-breaker'". The Guardian. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  22. ^ Volokh, Eugene (September 9, 2022). "Libel Lawsuit Over Tweet by Prominent Novelist Don Winslow Can Go Forward". Reason. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  23. ^ "Crime writer considers US war on drugs", Kerry O'Brien, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcast 31/05/2007. Retrieved July 07, 2010.
  24. ^ "Inside the war on drugs"[permanent dead link], by Regis Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 8, 2005. Retrieved July 07, 2010.
  25. ^ Winslow, Don (1991). A Cool Breeze on the Underground. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312054076. OCLC 22493544.
  26. ^ Winslow, Don (1992). The Trail to Buddha's Mirror. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312070991. OCLC 24698226.
  27. ^ Winslow, Don (1993). Way Down on the High Lonely. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312099343. OCLC 28412869.
  28. ^ Winslow, Don (1994). A Long Walk Up the Water Slide. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312113896. OCLC 30780550.
  29. ^ Winslow, Don (1996). While Drowning in the Desert. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312144463. OCLC 34046772.
  30. ^ Winslow, Don (2005). The Power of the Dog. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375405389. OCLC 56912098.
  31. ^ Winslow, Don (2015). The Cartel. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9781101874998. OCLC 1102178363.
  32. ^ Winslow, Don (2019). The Border. HarperCollins Publishers Australia. ISBN 9781460753552. OCLC 1066129044.
  33. ^ Winslow, Don (2008). The Dawn Patrol. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307266200. OCLC 176951791.
  34. ^ Winslow, Don (2009). The Gentlemen's Hour. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781439183397. OCLC 746131083.
  35. ^ Savages at Simon & Schuster.
  36. ^ Winslow, Don (2010). Savages. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781439183366. OCLC 464593444.
  37. ^ The Kings of Cool at Simon & Schuster.
  38. ^ Winslow, Don (2012). The Kings of Cool. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781451665321. OCLC 861363532.
  39. ^ Winslow, Don (1996). Isle of Joy. Arrow Books. ISBN 9780099706410. OCLC 43158012.
  40. ^ Winslow, Don (1997). The Death and Life of Bobby Z. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780679454298. OCLC 1060772680.
  41. ^ Winslow, Don (1999). California Fire and Life. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780679454311. OCLC 40347479.
  42. ^ Winslow, Don (2006). The Winter of Frankie Machine. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9781400044986. OCLC 66393714.
  43. ^ Winslow, Don (2011). Satori. Grand Central. ISBN 9780446561921. OCLC 762260838.
  44. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 14, 2017). "Review: A Corrupt Cop is up Against the Wall in Don Winslow's 'The Force'". The New York Times.
  45. ^ Winslow, Don (2017). The Force. William Morrow. ISBN 9780062664419. OCLC 1104479054.
  46. ^ Broken at Harper Collins.
  47. ^ Winslow, Don (2020). Broken. William Morrow. ISBN 9780062988904. OCLC 1149150846.
  48. ^ Looking for a Hero. University of Nebraska Press. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  49. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 22, 2020). "Matt Damon To Re-Team With 'Ford V Ferrari' Helmer James Mangold On Don Winslow Novel 'The Force'". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  50. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (March 7, 2019). "FX To Turn Don Winslow's Epic Cartel Drug War Novel Trilogy Into TV Series". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  51. ^ Petski, Denise (December 7, 2022). "FX Orders 'The Border' Pilot Based On Don Winslow's Cartel Trilogy; E.J. Bonilla To Lead Cast". Deadline. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  52. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 1, 2021). "Don Winslow's 'City On Fire' Crime Saga Trilogy Acquired In Mid-7 Figure Outright Purchase By Sony & Elizabeth Gabler's 3000 Pictures". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  53. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 27, 2021). "MRC Television, Rian Johnson & Ram Bergman Option Don Winslow's 'A Cool Breeze On The Underground' For 'Bad Education's Cory Finley To Write/Direct". Deadline. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  54. ^ "'Savages' Author Don Winslow Awarded Raymond Chandler Award", by Mike Fleming Jr.
  55. ^ Míriam Pina García (September 4, 2015). "Don Winslow's 'The Cartel' wins the RBA Prize for Crime Writing". Retrieved December 5, 2015.

External links[edit]