Greg's Reviews > Shame the Devil

Shame the Devil by George Pelecanos
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Feb 28, 10

bookshelves: mystery, crime-fiction
Read in February, 2010

I want to like George Pelecanos.

First because I like to keep a few 'genre' people in my reading habits. By doing this I feel a little less like a total snob when it comes to reading, but more importantly because sometimes I do like to pick up a book and know that I'm going to be reading a plot driven story, or a book where something happens and not a whole lot of effort is needed to get to that something happening. But even though I like having a few of these books in my reading list, I want to cheat and make sure that they are on the more 'literary' end of the spectrum.

I'm not sure why, but I think of Pelecanos being more on that end, than say Michael Connolly. That said, I don't really know the first thing about MC though.

Second, he wrote for The Wire, which was just about the most 'literary' show ever on American TV. I don't mean that they dropped book references left and right (with that as a criteria Lost would probably win out, with it's Dostoevsky, Flann O'Brien et al., references), but rather the whole structure and development of characters and all that shit.

Third, he has a cool sounding name, if I'm going to read a crime novelist I'd like for his name to sound like it came out of a James Ellroy novel.

Now, what about the book?

It's disappointing. Not for the reasons I noticed some other reviewers on goodreads.com said. To me the writing and the story were just fine, and the 'color' of information about how a kitchen runs was just fine too, it's actually nice in a book to get some details like that to make the book feel real, or alive.

My problem with the book is that it just seemed to set itself up for something more ambitious than it really was. The basic story is a revenge theme. The back of the book just about gives away the entire plot line, so there were no real surprises coming, but to get to the revenge part of the book Pelecanos stuffs the book with tons of characters. There are lots and lots of them, and sadly except for being introduced and maybe given a few mentions later most of them never seem to serve much purpose. Most of them seem like possibly interesting characters too. So much page space in say the second quarter of the book goes towards introducing all of these characters and filling out the story that the main characters don't seem to get developed as they should. As a result the background characters all seem to have this possibly cool shit going on, but the few main characters are stuck feeling like stock characters.

Solution? The novel should have been developed more, I don't think he should have cut out the plethora of background characters, just used them more to flesh out the story than just to give color to the story, at the same time the main characters could be developed too, after reading Pelecanos' newest novel I know that he has character development in his bag of writer tricks, so it was a little disappointing to see him fail to use this tool here.

That was my general gripe with the book.

A specific gripe was the unbelievability that anyone in any state of intoxication who grew up surrounded by the Washington DC hardcore scene would believe that Nation of Ulysses 13 Point Plan to Destroy America is the greatest punk record of all time. That was just too unbelievable for me, NOU is a fine band but their albums aren't the finest work of say Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains, Void, or Faith to name just a few bands that produced much more superior albums and that also hailed from our nations capitol.

That said though, it is neat to see all kinds of Dischord bands getting name dropped in Pelecanos' books (or at least in the two that I've read so far).

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Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

D. Pow maybe my least favorite book of his.


Greg I'm glad to hear that, I really liked parts of this book, but it was missing something. I wanted to like it more.

I'll write about it more in the review though.


message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I just cannot get in to a Pelecanos novel, and this is my genre to a tee.


message 4: by karen (new)

karen is it possible to be a hardcore nerd?
because you are one.


message 5: by Stephen (new)

Stephen To whom is that addressed Ms Frenchy?


Greg I'm sure that is me she is talking to.


message 7: by karen (last edited Feb 28, 2010 11:13AM) (new)

karen obviously to greg, for all of this hardcore nerdism:

A specific gripe was the unbelievability that anyone in any state of intoxication who grew up surrounded by the Washington DC hardcore scene would believe that Nation of Ulysses 13 Point Plan to Destroy America is the greatest punk record of all time. That was just too unbelievable for me; NOU is a fine band but their albums do not rival the finest work of, say, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains, Void, or Faith to name just a few bands that produced superior albums and that also hailed from our nation's capital.

That said though, it is neat to see all kinds of Dischord bands getting name-dropped in Pelecanos' books (or at least in the two that I've read so far).

(i have tidied it up a little for him.)


Greg Whatever, all of those bands did produce superior albums to Nation of Ulysses.


message 9: by karen (new)

karen sure, and days of our lives is better than general hospital, but they are both crap.


message 10: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg I think I'm just going to ignore comment number 9. I'm only making this comment so you know that I'm ignoring it.


message 11: by karen (new)

karen i can take away my vote and then you will have NOTHING!!!


message 12: by Stephen (new)

Stephen He'll still have my vote.


message 13: by karen (new)

karen but... you didn't vote. but now eh! has, so my threats are no good. i will have to find another way to get to him.


message 14: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I have now, and thought I had before. I would have anyway, just to thwart your evil Frenchy plan to dominate the world!


message 15: by karen (new)

karen hahaahha i don't want the world, i just want to keep greg in line.

now i have been foiled.

i also have a felty lion right here.
watch yourself.


message 16: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Ohhhh that's right. I am a good boy.


message 17: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Oops, sorry, Stephen and I are like the non-disciplinary parent who undermines the authority of the other one.


message 18: by Stephen (new)

Stephen That works for me, Eh! :-)


message 19: by karen (new)

karen guess we are mormons.

that's okay - greg deserves his votes...
he did buy me candy today.


message 20: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Karen Frenchy Brissette! He bought you candy? Yes, he deserves votes, and help with his romance novel by Gregiana Lobstera.


message 21: by karen (new)

karen oh, he needs help, all right...


message 22: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Where IS Greg?


message 23: by karen (new)

karen shhh - he is supposed to be finishing his paper so he can graduate.


message 24: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Oh, I'll behave. I have to go and play a game anyway. Something fun.


message 25: by karen (new)

karen enjoy! i will be here, listening to my audio book. sigh...


message 26: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy karen wrote: "obviously to greg, for all of this hardcore nerdism:

A specific gripe was the unbelievability that anyone in any state of intoxication who grew up surrounded by the Washington DC hardcore scene w..."


Thank you for fixing the "much more superior" bit here, brisssssseette. When I got to read it the second time, without the redundancy, I felt like Odysseus completing his hero arc.


message 27: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I'm on an ark, where are we going? Long term cannabis use leads to psYCHosIs


message 28: by karen (new)

karen you're welcome. i edit all of greg's papers for school, so it comes naturally to me. he formats mine for me - together - we make up one student!


message 29: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg One day I might start to re-read my reviews and maybe edit them before posting.


message 30: by karen (new)

karen if you give me more candy, i will volunteer.


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