Um, I haven't read Shibumi, the book by another author (Trevanian) that this novel is based on. I just may. I'm curious about it, even though I have mixed feelings about Nicholai Hel, the character Don Winslow has revived here.
Nicholai Hel makes me feel a little bad about myself. Not because he's a master of a martial art called 'naked kill' and can kill people with tea cups and newspapers and when outnumbered and I can't. He makes me feel bad about myself because I wonder why I can't just let myself enjoy the moment. Of course, readers aren't meant to take Nicholai Hel's extraordinary skills too seriously I presume, especially the 'proximity sense' that prevents anyone from sneaking up on him. And for the most part I did just go with the flow. In the end, applying that kind of supernatural mumbo jumbo to Eastern philosophies and practices turns me off a little too much. At certain times Nicholai Hel came across as a little cartoonish and I could not relate. Same with some other characters. They had names, roles and motivations but did not fascinate or draw me in. That's how I felt about the setting too. It's the 1950s. The story takes place in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. The writing was vivid enough within a scene - I pictured the surroundings well, but the overall milieu did not come across strongly. I was reading this for plot and there are twists and turns but I feel bad about realizing that I like the characters and setting to also shine, at least more than occurred here.
I bought Winslow's Savages and will give it a try. I'm sure it's not easy taking on another author's character. Winslow has bigger balls than Nicholai Hel.