Tapping the Source is celebrated as an ultimate surfer novel. Kem Nunn gives us the world of Huntington Beach circa 1984, a world where the old ideals of riding the waves has been drug through the filth ridden sand, where surfers, bikers, drugs and sex collide, making it also an ultimate novel about innocence lost.
Ike is a hick from a depressing dessert town. He's an expert at fixing bikes and pretty much nothing else, so when his sexy wild sister, Ellen, disappears after running away, he feels totally helpless. Then, one day a surfer rides into town, scared and angry with a list of names – the names of the three men Ellen headed to Mexico with and never came back. They reside in Huntington Beach, so Ike heads out there to find them.
It's a great noir set up with a decidedly non-typical noir protagonist. Far from a jaw-busting hero, Ike is really just a naive kid, constantly failing and bumbling his “investigation”. He finds help in the unexpected friendship with a man named Preston. Preston is now a rowdy, delinquent biker but once ruled the beach as a top surfer with Hound Adams, Ike's top suspect for the possible murder of his sister.
Together the two unlike guys form a bond, a bond that just might, with the help of some killer waves and the spirit of surfing, turn them back on the the right path in life. Sadly, sin wins, and they fall very fast onto much darker paths. The tone of the book shifts to the very seedy and exploitive with some pretty explicit scenes and ultimately total whacked out craziness.
It's not a light hearted read, but it is one that's tons of exploitation fun and it's really made me curious about author Nunn, even prompting me to give his ill fated HBO show John from Cincinnati a chance – which was a mistake – stick to his novels.