Saturday, March 05, 2005

pelecanos

George Pelecanos is the only ethnic white person born and bred in Washington D. C. ever to have made himself known to the literary world. I grew up in suburban Virginia, where DC meant big white buildings and Negroes. We visited the big white buildings and steered clear of the Negroes. George Pelecanos has made a career out of proving me and millions of other suburbanites to be idiots. In his Derek Strange detective novels the action happens in NE, SE, SW, Anacostia, Naylor Gardens, and other parts of DC where all kinds of people, mostly black live a dizzying variety of complex lives. Many sweat in the torid DC Summer without air conditioning. Many work hard to support families and grieve that their neighborhoods are going to seed. There are drug dealers who love their mothers and make sacrifices for those they care about. Their are dangerous criminals living side by side with introspective loners. Pelecanos does not allow us the luxury of a glib stereotype in his thoughtfull morality plays that take place inside the world inside the beltway.
His new novel is Drama City, a stand alone without Mr. Strange, about a guy out of the joint trying to make a life for himself and pulling down a paycheck working for the DC Humane Society. This is a tough and dangerous job in a town where pit bulls and Rottweilers(rotties) are bread for combat and gang members put aside differences for the pleasure of bloodsport. His hard-working Latina parole officer, is struggling with alcoholism, but does her often thankless job
with a toughlove attitude that gives her only the occasional satisfaction. She is the female equivalent of a mensch. Every character is uniquely human, likeable or unlikeable.
Pelecanos is out to show his often misunderstood city in a bright and searching light and his novels are novels though they sell out of the Mystery sections of book stores. We owe him tremendous gratitude for this.

Mister Nouse

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