Friday, April 11, 2014

George Pelecanos, A Writer's Writer

Like so many readers, I know what I like but I may not always be able to express why. Participating in a writing class has helped me focus on, or maybe I should say, recognize, the qualities I love about certain authors. Since the class I'm taking is in the journalism department, the stress is on "showing, not telling." This is tricky, and involves writing short, concise sentences (something I've never done), and sparing the adjectives and adverbs. As the professor says, powerful verbs don't need adverbs.

George Pelecanos has intrigued me for going on twenty years and now I know why. His style epitomizes classic, spare wordsmithing. There is rarely a wasted word in his novels. With George, reading is seeing. I often listen to his novels while I'm walking and it's like watching a movie. Narrator, Dion Graham, recorded all of the gritty Derek Strange novels and is now on board with Pelecanos's new series featuring Spero Lucas.

I missed "The Cut," which introduced Spero, but will rectify that mistake shortly. What I did just finish is "The Double." Briefly, I will tell you that The Double is a painting that once hung in Grace Kincaid's home until it disappeared in the hands, we fear, of a nasty piece of work that Grace had been dating.
Lucas, an Iraq War veteran, pulls down big bucks as a private investigator and Grace offers an enormous sum if he'll just get The Double back to her.
He figures he can knock this job off quick and easy as an aside to his full-time job as an investigator for a DC defense
attorney for whom he's looking into a murder. But soon, the
two cases collide, the danger ratchets up, and Lucas's dark
side, the one he so desperately tries to keep hidden from the V.A. psychiatrist, emerges.
There is nothing simple about the crime fiction of George Pelecanos, a complicated man, writing complex characters that reflect the way Pelecanos sees the world. A true Washingtonian, Pelecanos breathes life into the District of Columbia, a traditionally black city with a vibe and soul that's giving way to gentrification, a phenomenon he's obviously conflicted about.
Spero Lucas serves to remind readers of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who return as damaged goods, just one drink, one toke, or one wrong word away from the soul killing violence they've had to subsume in order to re-enter the land of the living.
And then there are the kids on the street and the overwhelming temptations they face as their single moms cry out for the male role model who will make the difference between an education and a jail cell.
I've met George Pelecanos. His face appears to carry the weight of the world in it. I suspect that book tours are tough for him. It's obvious, when you read his work, that he's burdened by the random unfairness of the world. I know that he's working in his own way to alleviate some of these evils. Perhaps he gets it all down on the page or on film, (The Wire, Treme), so that he can sleep at night.
Don't let the darkness keep you away. This man can write like nobody's business. He's the real deal. You can find interviews, reviews, and essays at his Facebook page.

No comments: