Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn
A Novel

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From Kem Nunn, the National Book Award-nominated author of Tapping the Source and The Dogs of Winter, comes an exquisitely written tale of loss and redemption. Nunn renders the dangerous beaches and waters of California's borderland as only the critically acclaimed poet laureate of surf noir can, and Tijuana Straits confirms his reputation as a master of suspense and a novelist of the first rank.

When Fahey, once a great surfer, now a reclusive ex-con, meets Magdalena, she is running from a pack of wild dogs along the ragged wasteland where California and Mexico meet the Pacific Ocean -- a spot once known to the men who rode its giant waves as the Tijuana Straits. Magdalena has barely survived an attack that forced her to flee Tijuana, and Fahey takes her in. That he is willing to do so runs contrary to his every instinct, for Fahey is done with the world, seeking little more than solitude from this all-but-forgotten corner of the Golden State. Nor is Fahey a stranger to the lawless ways of the border. He worries that in sheltering this woman he may not only be inviting further entanglements but may be placing them both at risk. In this, he is not wrong.

An environmental activist, Magdalena has become engaged in the struggle for the health and rights of the thousands of peasants streaming from Mexico's enervated heartland to work in the maquilladoras -- the foreign-owned factories that line her country's border, polluting its air and fouling its rivers. It is a risky contest. Danger can come from many directions, from government officials paid to preserve the status quo to thugs hired to intimidate reformers.

As Magdalena and Fahey become closer, Magdalena tries to discover who is out to get her, attempting to reconstruct the events that delivered her, battered and confused, into Fahey's strange yet oddly seductive world. She examines every lead, never guessing the truth. For into this no-man's-land between two countries comes a trio of killers led by Armando Santoya, a man beset by personal tragedy, an aberration born of the very conditions Magdalena has dedicated her life to fight against, yet who in the throes of his own drug-fueled confusions has marked her for death. And so will Fahey be put to the test, in a final duel on the beaches of his Tijuana Straits.

About Kem Nunn

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Kem Nunn is a third-generation Californian whose previous novels include The Dogs of Winter, Pomona Queen, Unassigned Territory, and Tapping the Source, which was one of three National Book Award Best First Fiction Finalists. Tijuana Straits won the L.A. Times Book Award. A graduate of the University of California at Irvine, he lives in Southern California.
Published September 17, 2013 by Scribner. 332 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Action & Adventure. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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After all this set-up, the story’s second half shows the strengthening bond between Sam, whom we know inside-out, and the fuzzily sketched Magdalena.

Aug 10 2004 | Read Full Review of Tijuana Straits: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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(Aug. 10) Forecast: Nunn has a real cult following—he invented "surf noir" with Tapping the Source (1984), and his most recent novel, The Dogs of Winter (1998), also used surfing as its milieu—but he should also attract more general readers with this breakout effort.

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The Best Reviews

He learns that his "guest", twenty-three years old Magdalena Rivera, is an environmental activist working for a Tijuana attorney developing cases against major polluters.

Aug 10 2004 | Read Full Review of Tijuana Straits: A Novel


The theory of surfing and the importance it plays for the characters does help explain some of the dreaminess of the characters and the book itself.

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