Mfred's Reviews > Drama City

Drama City by George Pelecanos
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Jun 30, 10

bookshelves: noir, crime, mystery
Read in June, 2010

There is something about a Pelecanos book that is like sitting in a classroom, making dreamy eyes at your favorite professor as he lectures about your favorite topic while you wear your favorite clothes on your favorite day of the best year of your life.

Not that Pelecanos is expository. Or dry. Or anything remotely like listening to a lecture, in the slightest.

But reading him, I learn. I learn so much about Washington, DC. About people. About crime and violence and struggling and living.

Drama City is nominally about Lorenzo Brown, ex-offender, now working for the Humane Society, and Rachel Lopez, his parol officer. Lorenzo and Rachel gets caught up in the spiraling violence between two local gangs— one led by Lorenzo’s longtime friend, the man he went to prison for, Nigel.

But, not to spoil this book before you read it (and you really, really should read it), the violence, the mayhem which the book blurb makes you think is the whole plot? Doesn’t happen almost until the last quarter of the book. What you really get with Pelecanos is a story about a whole city, how it is now, how it was, how people end up where they are, and why.

It’s a slow book, with a whole host of secondary characters and sub plots. I never got confused though, never got lost. Each new person or story was interesting, fascinating. Sometimes I felt a little voyeuristic- middle class suburban white girl peeking in on a predominantly black, inner-city experience. But that is my hang-up, not something the book imposed on me. I felt no judgement in the text, nor was there a sense of Pelecanos distancing the reader from the characters in order to teach some greater moral lesson.

I honestly do not know if these books would resonate with me as much if I didn’t live in DC. It is something amazing to read a book set on my streets, in my neighborhood even, that doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the President and Secret Service foiling terrorist hijackers by landing Air Force one on the tip of the Washington Monument. And even though this is a crime book, the next time someone looks at me askance for living in the “murder capital of the United States” (actually, it’s DETROIT) or makes a joke about crack-smoking mayors, I’m gonna hand them this book.

Here, here is my city. Here is the heat in summer, and the smells, and the noise, and yes the terrible violence, the corruption, the loss. But here too are the people in my city, good and bad, and in all the choices they make, see the profundity of average life.

Five of five stars.
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