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Oliver Stone's latest film, Savages, opened in theaters earlier this month. The movie centers on two young marijuana growers, Ben and Chon, who live and deal in California, alongside their girlfriend O — short for Ophelia. They find themselves thrust into a world of violence and murder when a Mexican drug cartel comes after their business. The film is based on the book by crime writer Don Winslow, who also co-wrote the screenplay.
Although Winslow had written 12 novels before Savages, that book launched his career. It made it to the top of The New York Times best-sellers list and garnered high praise from literary critics. His new book, The Kings of Cool, a prequel to Savages, is set in 2005, when Ben, Chon and O are just starting their business.
"They run into a wall," Winslow tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, "and it turns out the wall is their own past."
On how he developed his characters in Savages and The Kings of Cool
"I used to live up in the Laguna Beach, Dana Point area, and would hang out and do a little surfing, and so I got to know these kinds of people. I got to know the Bens and the Chons who would hang out at the volleyball courts and play and they would talk about their dads and their uncles and they would talk about friends of theirs back in the day. And so I started to hear stories about the early days of the marijuana trade."
On the authenticity of his characters
"It's funny because sometimes editors from New York will express some incredulity, if you will, about some of the characters or some of the ways that they speak and what I always say is, 'OK, get on an airplane, I'll pick you up in San Diego or John Wayne Airport in Orange County and if I can't take you and put you in front of those characters in 45 minutes, you win the argument.' But I've never lost that bet."
On how his early days as a private investigator helped him as a writer
"I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, I sure didn't know I was going to be. But I used to sit and read, you know, I would be reading Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy and T. Jefferson Parker, sometimes while I was on stakeouts. And so when I got serious about sitting down and writing my first book I thought, Well, you know, it's a combination of something that you love and love reading, and something that you know a little bit about, which was the investigative world and the criminal world."
On his writing process
"It's more for me like a factory job. It's a job that I love and I'm very grateful to have, never thought I'd get there, but I really just think of putting time in at the desk. And some days are great and I get a lot of pages done, and other days aren't so great. I think it's like everybody's job."