Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Words From The Front *

I'm sure I've mentioned on more than one occasion my total admiration for the works of US crime writer George Pelecanos as his work - much like, among others, his fellow American novelists Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy, plus the Scottish author Ian Rankin - which goes far beyond a simple genre and enters the realms of classic contemporary fiction.
Like the others mentioned, it is no straightforward crime committed, cops look for criminal, cops find criminal and cops either jail or shoot criminal for Pelecanos. For starters, each of his books has a superb soundtrack, whether 60s and 70s soul or punk and new wave, music is a major player in his writing - much like, now I think of it, as Ian Banks namedrops some great bands and sound in his novels. Add to the music, Pelecanos has class, economics, race and political corruption in large dollops.
The book I've just finished, Right As Rain, comes up trumps as usual. It's the first of the Strange and Quinn quartet (and is the ninth of his that I have read) and proves a real pacy, racy read. I give you the following section as a taster (both participants are former police officers, now private detectives, who are on the trail of drug dealers):
"'First thing I would do,' said Strange. 'First thing, I'd legalize drugs. Take away what they're all fightin over, cause in itself it's got no meaning anyway. It's like those MacGuffins they're always talkin about in those Alfred Hitchcock movies - just somethin to move the drama along. Legalization, it works in some of those European countries, right? You don't see this kind of crime over there. The repeal of prohibition, it stopped a lot of the same kind of things we got goin on right here, didn't it?'
'Okay. What's the other thing?'
'Make handguns illegal, nationwide. After a moratorium and a grace period, mandatory sentences for anyone caught in possession of a handgun. A pistol ain't good for nothin but killing other human beings, man.'
'You're not the first person who's thought of those things. So why isn't anyone talking about it for real?'
'Cause you put all those politicians down on the Hill in one room and you can't find one set of nuts swingin between the legs of any of em. Even the ones who know what's got to be done, they realize that comin out in favour of drug legalization and handgun illegalization will kill their careers. And the rest of them are in the pockets of the gun lobby. Meantime, nearly half the black men in this city have either been incarcerated or are in jail now.'
'You tellin me it's a black thing?'
'I'm tellin you it's a money thing. We got two separate societies in this country, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is gettin wider every day. And the really frustratin thing is...'
'No-one cares,' said Quinn.
'Not exactly. You got mentors, community activists, church groups out here, they're tryin, man, believe me. But it's not enough. More to the point, some people care, but most people care about the wrong things. Look, why does a dumb-ass, racist disc jockey make the front page and the leadoff on the TV news for weeks, when the murder of teenage black children gets buried in the back of the Metro section every day? Why do my own people write columns year after year in the Washington Post complainin that black actors don't get nominated for any Academy Awards, when they should be writin every goddamn day about the fucked-up schools in this city, got no supplies, leaking roofs, and fifteen-year-old textbooks. You got kids walkin to school in this city afraid for their lives, and once they get there they got one security guard lookin after five hundred children. How many bodyguards you think the mayor's got, huh?'
'I don't know, Derek. You askin me?'
'I'm makin a point....'"

Pure dynamite!


*Tom Verlaine

10 Comments:

Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Sold! I'm ordering some of GP's books right away. Any recommendations where to start? The extract was just awesome.

1:16 pm  
Blogger Reidski said...

There are three series: the DC Quarter, which has The Big Blowdown at the start; the Stefanos trilogy, with A Firing Offense at the beginning; and Right as Rain kicking off the Strange and Quinn foursome.
Enjoy - you will not be disappointed!

4:15 pm  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Oh dear, just as I thought the impossible had happened, and that we had found a topic on which we could agree, you went and ruined it.

All my life I have devoured what I call, not very originally, 'pulp fiction', by which I mean American crime stories. I have read so many of the damned things, I could almost call myself an 'afficianado'. With unerring accuracy you picked one of the writers I found most disappointing, but I am grateful for your extract in providing me with exactly the reason I disliked his books. When I read 'pulp fiction', I don't want to know the writer's political leanings, be they Right or Left. I just want him to spin a nicely complicated plot packed with thrills and spills. If I want politics, I can always (at a pinch) read your blog!

Nor, do I want literary pretensions. John Lescroart writes fairly good thrillers, mostly set in 'N'Orleans', but burdens the reader with fancy prose and semi-philosophical musings.

After all that, you and Ms. Rullsenberg are unlikely to take any recommendations from me, but for anyone else reading this, do not hesitate, beg, borrow or steal any book by Stephen Hunter. If you're a Brit, start with "Tapestry of Spies", almost as good (but very different) as le Carre's "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold".

9:45 pm  
Blogger Reidski said...

There you go, lisa, if that is not a recommendation enough, then nothing is!

12:29 am  
Blogger Jim said...

Strong recommendation indeed.

7:11 am  
Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I can't think why it would be so, but I am curiously even more inclined to pursue the works of George Peleconas. Heavens to Betsy, politics rearing its head in popular fiction? One would almost think that it is possible to proclaim "I don't do politics"!

So, as a starting point Cloud and I are off to the local libraries to borrow a few!

10:26 am  
Anonymous Voroshilov said...

Keep at 'em Reidski - the world must be converted (tho' his new book ain't much cop). Humbug to Duff. Right as Rain is the best (I hear that Curtis Hansen is making it into a filum).

5:02 pm  
Anonymous ardee said...

red, this is ardee, ya know, life in print. photos of trashcan sinatras are up....check them out.

9:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Reidski!

Haven't been on the blogsites for a while..too wrapped up reading crime books as it happens and until Rankin, McDermid or Billingham bring out another book I will check out your Americans.

And I totally agree with you about Galloway.

And sorry about the Dears concert. I'm having another trip to Sheffield soon for REM take 2 (fingers firmly crossed)

Jane

9:38 pm  
Blogger Reidski said...

Hey, everyone, Jane's back! Whoopppeeee! Well, you better get back to some blogging - soon!
And Voroshilov, too, bloody hell.

10:40 pm  

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