Clark's Bookshelf.

Author:Isaacs, Clark
Position:Book review


Don Winslow

Grand Central Publishing

c/o Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

9780446561921, $25.99,

With current news focused on the tragedy in Japan, it seems ironic that a novel is released on March 7th which is approximately about the same timing as the tsunami and earthquake struck there. "Satori" by Don Winslow starts in Tokyo in 1951, but is not about atomic energy or anything related to it.

"Satori" is considered a prequel which resurrects Nicholai Hel, who was a martial arts expert, created by Trevanian in 1979 in "Shibumi." The original creation sold 2.3 million copies and has been considered by many as one of the classic thrillers of the 20th century.

Trevanian is the pseudonym for Rodney Whitaker who died in 2005. He wrote "The Eiger Sanction" which was his first novel.

Carrying the baton in the next leg of the career of Nicholai Hel, Don Winslow is no stranger to the literary scene having written "The Power of the Dog," "The Life and Death of Bobby Z," and "Savages," to name a few.

Creation of a masterful character took some clever thought to what attributes he must possess and how to use them. Nicholai Hel was wrapped into a complete package which opened when he used his skills. He was a master of hoda korosu or "naked kill," fluent in seven languages, and had honed extraordinary "proximity sense"--an extra-awareness of the presence of danger. He became the world's most fearsome assassin and the CIA recruited him. In exchange for the promise of money, freedom, and a neutral passport he was to go to Beijing and kill the Soviet Union's Commissioner to China!

SATORI: A Japanese Buddhist term for individual enlightenment, or understanding. A flash of sudden awareness, or Enlightenment.

The resilience of Hel is shown several times during the unfolding of this novel. He is attacked by assassins, shot by others and is forced to defend himself by killing several enemies at a time. He is 26 years old and has mastered his destiny in becoming a great spy. Winslow is able to intricately weave situations where the reader will be swept into the action and must move through the chapters in rapid succession so that the impact of what is happening is not diminished.

This book can become a classic spy novel in its own right without smudging the memory of Nicholai Hel's creator Trevanian. Don Winslow should be proud of this accomplishment and write sequels to this prequel...

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