Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Way Home: Pelecanos Strikes Again

Having read The Sweet Forever (see the entry for April 1st) I was delighted to stumble on another crime novel by George Pelecanos. It is a recent piece of work, published in 2008, whereas The Sweet Forever dates from some ten years earlier. Once again it deals with the consequences of stumbling on a substantial cache of money belonging to some very unpleasant people. Beyond that, though, The Way Home could hardly be more different than its predecessor. Its depiction of incarceration is remarkable, enlightening, and refreshingly free of cliche. And I loved the scene where the old guard nicknamed Shawshank calls to task the troubled-teen-fiction novelist who has come to condescendingly lecture to the inmates; he shows up the guy's work as a meretricious string of clich├ęs. Once again the story is set in Washington DC, a locale which Pelecanos deftly and vividly brings to life. Chandler had Los Angeles, George V. Higgins had Boston. Pelecanos has Washington. It's a highly accomplished novel. Whereas The Sweet Forever had a ragged, badass vibe, The Way Home possesses a smooth cool precision. It also features some magnificently drawn bad guys. In the ten years between the two books, Pelecanos has clearly advanced as a writer — which is to take nothing away from The Sweet Forever, which I loved. And, like the earlier book, The Way Home moves grippingly towards a hellish and brutal climax. I couldn't put it down. My only grouse? Of course, there has to be one: the boring, generic crime novel cover art on the UK edition. This was a let down after the terrific graphics which adorned my copy of The Sweet Forever. Anyway, I'm now actively looking for anything Pelecanos has written, and I advice you to do the same. (The splendid portrait of Pelecanos is by April Saul / Getty Images and accompanies an interview with Pelecanos in the Los Angeles Times. Click on the image to go to it.)

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