Tag Archives: George Pelecanos

The Double by George Pelecanos – review

c12d55042a112d0e527c16bb6a1e6d4dI am really digging this new Spero Lucas private detective series from George Pelecanos, dear readers.  I mean, private dicks are nothing new for Pelecanos, the guy having given us the Nick Stefanos series early in his career and the excellent Strange/Quinn novels later on, but the Spero Lucas novels, beginning with The Cut and now The Double, have really shown the man upping his game as of late.  I liked his urban tragedies/westerns that he’d been putting out over the last few years as much as anybody, but this new shit is hipper, harsher and cooler than anything he’s done in a few years.

The Double finds Lucas trying to track down a trio of assholes who’ve been ripped off a young woman’s pricey painting after boning down with her a few times.  A wiz at finding stolen shit, Lucas is hoping to take a hefty cut of the painting once he’s gotten it back, but the young ex-military dude is also looking for a rush that only intense violence will provide him.  Lucky for him, the boys he’s going after are a ruthless bunch with a decent weapons cache who are totally willing to throw down, but will they prove to powerful for our hero?

Pelecanos doesn’t break the bank with plot complications and twists the way most private eye novelists do, the novel still a morally complex modern western more than anything (like the majority of all his writing), but he’s able with these novels to feel younger, more edgy than some of the warmer, more “mature,” family-centered novels he’s given us lately have been.  He’s still obsessed with dropping music and movie references and taking his readers on a tour of D.C. that is full of specific locations, but his exploration of masculinity and violence in the Lucas novels seems colder and more pitiless than he’s been in a good long while, and for the Nerd it’s a breath of fresh fucking air.

So if you’ve been off the Pelecanos train for a while on account of some of his shit feeling a same-y these days, the Nerd implores you to give The Cut and The Double a look toot-sweet.  And, shit, if you’ve never given the man a chance?  Well, first off, let me say you’re a fucking crime philistine who needs to rethink his or her reading choices and, second off, you need to put these books on the top of your TBR pile right now as they are a helluva good place to start getting to know one of the genre’s best novelists.

Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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The Cut by George Pelecanos – review

In the first novel of a new series, we are introduced to Spero Lucas, a just-returned Iraq war veteran, working as an investigator for a Washington, D.C. defense attorney with a sideline of recovering “lost” property fort a 40 per cent cut of its value. In the caper he undertakes in this initial foray, he seems to bite off more than he can chew.

The attorney is defending a top marijuana peddler, and the client asks for Spero to visit him in jail. He tells Spero that his deliveries are being stolen and he is out of money, and would appreciate recovery of either the merchandise or the cash. The assignment takes Spero off into all kinds of action, some of which is kind of far-fetched.

Mr. Pelecanos is well-known for his characterizations and his use of the nation’s Capital as background, and this book is no exception. Somehow, however, using Spero as an example of a footloose vet just returned from the desert just didn’t quite ring true. Some of his friends who served with him there do exhibit the plight of wounded, disabled marines, or just plain still unemployed, somewhat more realistically. That said, the novel is written with the author’s accustomed flair, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. Certainly, the action is vivid, and the reader keeps turning pages.

Recommended.

Theodore Feit

The Feit's reviews appear in numerous media outlets.

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What It Was by George Pelecanos – review

George Pelecanos returns to the seventies in What It Was, his new novel featuring Washington DC private detective Derek Strange.  It’s 1972 and Strange is on the trail of a sexy woman’s missing ring.  His investigation brings him into the orbit of Frank Vaughn, the murder police last seen in Hard Revolution, who is trying to catch Red “Fury” Jones, a fearless local killer looking to make a name for himself.  Hopefully Strange can close his missing property case and Vaughn his multiple murders before Red wastes anymore luckless motherfuckers with his trusty .45.

Pelecanos, who was last in the thick of seventies DC with the excellent King Suckerman, relishes any chance to discuss the period, giving us constant descriptions of the era’s funk/soul music, muscle cars, clothes, and DC neighborhood businesses and streets.  He also takes frequent stops on the journey to peek in on the lives of just about any minor character one of the major players comes into contact with.  Pelecanos’ novels have always been concerned with world-building, and you can feel his love for every person and place in this story on every page, and those specific and intimate details are what I’ve come to love most about Pelecanos’ work over the years.

But don’t think that What It Was is simply about hanging out in the bucket seat of a sweet ride listening to The Stylistics, because there’s plenty of incident in the novel, incident of bloodiest kind.  Red Jones lives for today and for himself, knowing that all he can leave behind in this world is his legend, hence dude’s willingness to shoot a motherfucker without a second thought.  Frank Vaughn also has a similar code, so you know the two of them are planning to leave it all on fucking dance floor when their final showdown inevitably goes down.

As with all of Pelecanos’ work, though he’s a master at creating cool-as-hell killer characters and crafting some of the best action scenes you’ll ever read, there’s still a strong sense of morality to What It Was.  Strange wrestles throughout with his conscience and what it means to be a man.  He knows he should be good to his woman Carmen but also, following the example of his wandering-eyed father, feels that you can’t keep a man away from what his dick wants.  He also, unlike Red and Vaughn, doesn’t believe in self-destructive impulses like pride and name over all else, but still has to make hard choices late in the book in spite of these beliefs.

As with last year’s The Cut, What It Was gives us a Pelecanos more engaged with the plot and thriller aspects of his story than he has been of late.  The Way Home and The Turnaround were fine reads but more of what we had come to expect from him, a sad fact as they followed the highs of The Night Gardener, arguably his strongest work of the last decade.  He seemed content to just give us a small, inner-city morality plays (I’d also put Drama City in with Way Home and Turnaround) that had a strong characters and setting but no surprises.  With his last two novels, Pelecanos has stepped up his game.  The morality and “urban western” sense ain’t going anywhere (it just wouldn’t be Pelecanos without those aspects, really) but the stories are more complex and lively, the fates of the characters no longer written in stone from page one.

Point is, Pelecanos is having fun with What It Was, and if you’re down for badass dudes gunning down snitches and cool cats smoking Kools they remove from the pack through a hole torn in the bottom, I think you can dig this shit.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go bump some brother Curtis, then maybe pop The Mack into the DVD player.

 

Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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What it Was by George Pelecanos – review

The year was 1972. Derek Strange was out of the Metropolitan Police Dept. for four years and struggling to build up his PI agency. Nixon was in the White House, but not for long. Watergate was just up ahead. The riots that tore the nation’s Capitol apart were some years ago, but unrest and attitude still ran strong.

Against this background George Pelecanos has written about Strange’s early career as a 26-year-old and his relationship with Detective Frank Vaughn. It all starts when Strange is retained by a good- looking babe to find a missing ring of little “value” but “great” sentimentality. This takes him on a journey, which enables the author to describe the crime conditions – - including a one-man murder wave – - and population and living conditions of D.C., along with almost a catalogue of the music of the era.

Written with the usual vernacular and tight prose as displayed in the previous novels in the series, the graphic details of the characters are mesmerizing. Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

The Feit's reviews appear in numerous media outlets.

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Pre-order What it Was by George Pelecanos for .99¢

It looks like Amazon has the pre-order price for What it Was by George Pelecanos set at .99¢. It comes out in January.

Even if this winds up being an Amazon glitch (which has happened before) you’ve got nothing to lose because if they cancel the order you’ll get your money back or you won’t charged at all.

Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos – review

the night gardener george pelecanosI originally reviewed The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos on October 17th, 2006

The first chapter is brilliantly written and is one of the finest passages in a mystery novel that I have ever read. It opens on a crime scene in 1985 with a veteran police officer investigating a murder of a child that may have been committed by a serial killer. The names of all the children murdered have been palindromes. We are also introduced to two rookie patrolmen keeping the crowd back. The entire scene is like a complex symphony being orchestrated by a master. The detached third person narration is like a camera that floats freely over the scene. The final line is a haunting and elegiac lament for simpler times, when anything was possible and before the harder realities of life hits. You see the crack epidemic started in 1986 causing murder and crime rates to skyrocket with the onslaught of drug wars and addiction with the result being that from that day forward the death of a child no longer held relevance. The year 1985 was carefully chosen by Mr. Pelecanos.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

More Posts - Website - Twitter