Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pelecanos and The Big Blowdown

16. The Big Blowdown, George Pelecanos. Thriller, 2-19, pp. 313

April, 2003. That’s when I was introduced to the novels of D.C. writer George Pelecanos. The book, his sixth, was The Sweet Forever. I read one more Pelcanos book that year, three more the next. His work has been an enduring passion since.

At the end of 2005, and into the first two months of this year, I set out to acquaint myself with Pelecanos’ early books. His first three books were entertaining, but imperfect. Many of the elements that would become his trademark were there, but those elements had not yet coalesced into a seamless whole.

That happened in his fourth book, Down By The River Where The Dead Men Go. Before that book, “I was learning to be a writer,” Pelecanos told me at a recent book signing. In Down By The River everything falls into place. His dream of becoming a writer is realized.

In his fifth book, The Big Blowdown, Pelecanos emerges as a master of his craft. The characters are vivid and fully realized, the pace is breathtaking and the atmosphere palpable—the pages reek of cigarettes, cheap booze, cheaper perfume and illicit sex. Automobiles, music and the City of Washington, D.C., always graphically drawn in Pelecanos’ writing, manifest themselves as elements vital to Pelecanos’ work.

Pelecanos ranks with Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin and Robert Crais as one of the leading practitioners of the thriller today.

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