Sunday, June 21, 2009

George Pelecanos

I never read crime fiction. In fact, I hadn't read any type of fiction for years. Then I watched The Wire. It was an obsession. Consumed, I watched the entire series in a few weeks. I devoted entire Sundays to it. Then it was over. My free time was too free. It became indeterminate, homogeneous, empty and anxious. Thankfully, Steve Dore recommended George Pelecanos.

George Pelecanos was a writer/producer on The Wire. He writes crime fiction set in DC. Its a lot like The Wire; realist stories of people- mostly men- caught in social, civic and institutional decay. His writing style is taught and mesmerizing. He also has stellar taste in music, which plays a significant contextual element in his work.

So, now I've got a new Sunday routine. I read a George Pelecanos book. I've read nearly everyone in Brighton Hove library. They have all been good. Some, like The Night Gardener, The Turnaround and Hard Revolution, have been superb.

Update. Today I'm reading Pelecanos' Hell To Pay. Here is an example of his themes and style:

Friends, relatives, police and print and broadcast media heavily attended Joe Wilder's showing at a funeral parlor near the old Posin's Deli on Georgia Avenue. At one point, traffic had been rerouted on the stripe to accommodate the influx of cars. Except for a few aquaintances and a couple of black plainclothes homicide men assigned to the case, few came to pay their respects to Lorenze Wilder on the other side of town.

The boy and his uncle were buried the next day in Glenwood Cemetary in Northeast, not far from where they had been murdered.

Because of the numbing consistency of the murder rate, and because lower-class black life held little value in the media's eyes, the violent deaths of young black men and women in the District of Columbia had not been deemed particularly newsworthy for the past fifteen years. Murders of young blacks rarely made the lead-off in the TV news and were routinely buried inside the Metro section of the Washington Post, the details consisting of a paragraph or two at best, the victims often unidentified, the follow-up nil.

Suburban liberals plastered Free Tibet stickers on the bumpers of their cars, seemingly unconcerned that just a few short miles from the White House, American children were enslaved in nighmare neighborhoods, living amid gunfire and drugs and attending dilapidated public schools. The nation was outraged at high school shootings in white neighborhoods, but young black men and women were murdered without fanfare in the nations capital every single day.

The shooting death of Joe Wilder, though, was different. Like a few high-profile cases over the years, it involved the death of an innocent child. For a few days after the homicide, the Wilder murder was the lead story on the local television news and made top-of-the-fold Metro as well. Even national politicians jumped into the fray, denouncing the culture of violence in the inner cities. As the witness at the ice-cream shop had mentioned the loud rap music coming from the open windows of the shooter's car, these same politicians had gone on to condemn those twin chestnuts, hip-hop and Hollywood. At no time did these bought-and-sold politicians mention the conditions that created that culture, or the handguns, as easily available as a carton of milk, that had killed the boy.


Tobi Vail said...

hi chris, wow that sounds like a great sunday routine. i am jealous. i am in bed with book today (sunday) thinking about going to the Y and a billion other things i should be doing, but it's nice to be here reading about virginia woolf. xxx tv

malacaligrafia said...

Interesting. The Wire was so great. Due to the show I was planning to read David Simon's Homicide. I think it is adictive all that stuff.

CO said...

its totally addictive. i'm also gonna read 'homicide. i'look forward to seeing simon's new show and pelecanos and simon talk about the wire in london at the end of july.

Richard said...

don't have cable so i missed this series, likely to have the time to read something than to find and see the entire wire, thanks; watching this also interested me

saralibrarian said...

you don't need cable if your public library has the wire... not sure where you are richard but we have 'the wire' at the timberland regional library (olympia and surrounding areas). you might be on the hold list for awhile but eventually you'll get it... a whole season at a time.
"the corner: a year in the life of an inner-city neighborhood" is another david simon title from 1997 that we have at the library. i have this at home right now but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

Richard said...

no library holds for that one, for now just borrowing what i can find, watch parts of it at least. i appreciate the reply.

Tabitha Says said...

I'm reading the Turnaround now