For fiction lovers, if you aren’t aware or haven’t read George Pelecanos then you are simply missing out on the finest living American crime writer. Since 1992 when A Firing Offense was published, chronicling the increasingly boozy and dire missteps of private investigator Nick Stefanos (Nick also featured center stage in Nick’s Trip, and Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go before coming in and out of the subsequent books) through the 2006 The Night Gardener (about the return of a serial killer who murdered three people in the 1980s) Pelecanos has charted the through-lines of crime, murder, and the possibility for redemption. These are moral tales in their way. Although I would hate to discourage anyone from reading them who loathes the Western genre, in many ways that’s exactly what Pelecanos’ tales of struggle are–urban Westerns. Much like the best shoot ’em ups (think The Outlaw Josey Wales, Rio Bravo, The Wild Bunch) violence is only one facet, a corruptive end result within a far richer thematic canvass. The struggle of characters to maintain diginity, honor, and the essential need for comraderie/family in a world seemingly coming undone are the true preoccupations of his characters and of this consistantly fascinating writer.
For the record, I’ve always been partial to the stand alone Shoedog (the first book I read by Pelecanos back in 1997) and the early Stefanos novels, the “D.C. Quartet” books, and the Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series. Wait! That’s like all of the books.
I’m a fan.
Sunday the Washington Post ran a lengthy and good profile of Pelecanos… hence the reason for this blog post. I guess I should also mention that Pelecanos was also a contributing member of the HBO series The Wire… the best damn (non-fantasy) television show ever. Dont’ agree? Well, I know this cat named Omar Little who may be paying you a little visit then. He’s very persuasive. Very.
I’ve been doing my part in trying to get people to read Pelecanos since I first “discovered” him. In the last few years he’s caught on with the general public and each book has gotten richer, better, and more complex while still delivering the crime fiction goodies. But I know some of you still haven’t taken the plunge. Pelecanos’ new book, The Turnaround comes out in August, so there’s no better time to seek him out.
You can read more about Mr. Pelecanos here: