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Drama City Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The real test of an author's skill is sometimes to be found not in an unusually conceived work, but in his or her ability to create a consuming tale out of what, in outline form, might sound like an all-too-familiar or mundane plot line. In another novelist's hands, for instance, Drama City might have been a perfectly serviceable but regrettably unmemorable story of redemption and revenge set in the grittier districts of Washington, D.C. But with George Pelecanos at the reins, it becomes a poignant, profound yarn about men--the good, the bad, and the still undecided--trying to find their footing amid the centrifugal forces at play in a modern inner city.

Pelecanos's first standalone after four consecutive novels starring private eye Derek Strange (including Soul Circus and Hard Revolution), Drama City introduces Lorenzo Brown, a young, black onetime criminal enforcer who's recently returned to the streets after doing eight years in prison on a felony drug charge. Crime and criminals had always been fundamental to Lorenzo's existence. ("Y'all know how that is. I ran with some boys, one in particular, and when those boys and my main boy went down to the corner I went with 'em. They were my people, the closest thing I ever had to male kin.") Since his release, though, he's been serving as a Humane Law Enforcement Officer with the Humane Society, protecting animals from the panoply of domestic cruelty, trying to leave both the drugs and the thugs behind. This attitude has won him a few champions, notably Rachel Lopez, his striking half-Jewish, half-Latina probation officer and friend, who spends her days "telling other people that they need to stay on track," but then goes off the rails at night, haunting hotel bars, picking up inappropriate guys, always frightened by the idea of a relationship "where she was not in complete control." Of course, these delicate balances of individual behavior are only possible in the absence of the unexpected. When a seemingly inconsequential mistake incites a lethal turf battle between rival gang bosses Nigel Johnson and Deacon Taylor, and Rachel is stabbed in the chest by a volatile, hopped-up gunman, Lorenzo finds his killer instincts returning to the fore. He must decide how far he's willing to go--and how much he's willing to lose--in order to exact retribution.

A simple plot on its face, yet given high stakes and a heroic edge by Pelecanos's portrayal of Brown as a man-in-progress struggling to secure his liberty from the past, helped along by his unexpectedly sympathetic former boss, childhood friend Nigel Johnson. Less satisfyingly rendered is Lopez, whose acrobatic swings to the wild side provide merely arousing diversions, without adequate character development. Bearing soul as well as teeth, Drama City gives off the air of a Greek tragedy. You know things are going to get bad before they turn worse, but Pelecanos keeps you riveted throughout. --J. Kingston Pierce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Pelecanos's later fiction, set on the drug-saturated streets of ghetto Washington, D.C., is charged with the dark, unrelenting inevitability of Greek myth. In the author's 13th novel, "dog man" Lorenzo Brown, a street investigator for the Humane Society, has recently completed an eight-year stretch in prison for narcotics and is determined to stay clean and free. Rachel Lopez, Lorenzo's parole officer, spends her days chasing down clients and her nights getting drunk in bars and having rough sex with strangers. The ignition point for the violence that eventually engulfs these two fully realized, attractive characters—characteristics that in Pelecanos's world mark them as quite probably doomed—is a minor argument between local drug kingpins that inflates into a series of revenge killings. Pelecanos is known for his bleak, uncompromising outlook (Hard Resolution; Hell to Pay; The Sweet Forever) and while the death and destruction are still here in full force, some fans may question the turnaround in his ending. Might it be an attempt to hit the megabestseller stardom that fans think he deserves? Hope and redemption are fine subjects for many novelists, but it's the stark world of violence and despair that this author really owns.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446611441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446611442
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,043,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George P. Pelecanos was born in Washington, DC in 1957. His first novel was published in 1992 and alongside his consequential success as an author, he has also worked as producer, writer and story editor for the acclaimed and award-winning US crime series, The Wire. His writing for the show earned him an Emmy nomination.

He is the author of fifteen crime novels set in and around Washington, DC. The Big Blowdown was the recipient of the International Crime Novel of the Year award in both Germany and Japan; King Suckerman was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger Award in the UK. His short fiction has appeared in Esquire and the collections Unusual Suspects and Best American Mystery Stories of 1997. He is an award-winning journalist and pop-culture essayist who has written for the Washington Post.

Pelecanos can also claim credit for involvement in the production of several feature films. Most recently, as a screenwriter for film, he has written an adaptation of King Suckerman for Dimension Films, and was co-writer on the Paid in Full.

His novel Right as Rain is currently in development with director Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys) and Warner Brothers. He is a writer on the upcoming World War II miniseries The Pacific, to be produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and HBO. Pelecanos lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and three children. He is at work on his next novel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's hard not to like a character who loves animals, even mean animals - the mad ones, the dirty, the underfed, the sick, vermin infested animals too, some trained to kill. Dogs, cats, parakeets, etc., they're Lorenzo Brown's thing. He's an officer for the Humane Society Law Enforcement team in Washington, D.C., and likes his job, a lot. Lorenzo figures if something is off with an animal, it's a human's fault, and is ready to paper offenders and serve search and/or arrest warrants if necessary. He saved his own dog, Jasmine, the night before her scheduled euthanization. She is the first pet he has every owned.

Brown is an ex-con, out on parole after 8 years in prison for a drug charge. He is determined to stay straight. Each morning, when he walks Jasmine, he passes the home of Nigel Johnson's mother. Occasionally, he will see Nigel there, along with a couple of young men wearing thick platinum chains. The troops lean against their rides - BMW coupes and sedans, a black Escalade, "tricked with spinners in the mix." The black GS430 with "dual pipes and aftermarket rims" belongs to Nigel, now a powerful drug kingpin, who is usually busy directing business, talking on his Nextel. Lorenzo and Nigel, both smart and ambitious as kids, had run the streets together, going back almost twenty-five years. Brown had done the righteous thing by his friend. He stayed silent when he was pressured to give Nigel up. Brown chose to serve his time instead. Now he has had enough of the life. His old friends don't quite get it, however.

Rachel Lopez also loves her work. She is Lorenzo's parole officer and one of the finest. She comes on tough initially and lays down the rules, but she wants all her people to make it. She has invested much of herself in their ultimate success.
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Format: Hardcover
After loads of success with his earlier series, Pelecanos introduces two new protagonists in this excellent trip down Washington, D.C.'s mean streets. His work on the HBO series "The Wire", shows in the main character of Lorenzo, a drug crew thug recently off an eight-year stretch of jail after a third strike. Now he's trying to put the game behind him and live a square life as an enforcement officer for the city's Humane Society. Part of Lorenzo's routine involves reporting to his parole officer, the young, attractive Rachel Lopez. Given the D.C. area's substantial Latino population, it's taken Pelecanos a while to introduce one as a major character, but with Rachel he not only takes care of that, but has finally written a fully developed female character. She's not without her own issues, as alcoholism and anonymous sex threaten to lead her somewhere dark.

The story basically follows Lorenzo and Rachel around their daily rounds, providing a glimpse at the daily struggles they face simply to get along in the world. Like many of Pelecanos' characters, Lorenzo discovers satisfaction and pride in hard work, as he has to deal with both the nasty people who mistreat animals, and the mockery of the corner boys, who call him soft. He knows he's still as tough as they come, but he's also built the self-respect to realize that he doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. Meanwhile, Rachel has her own hard work, trying to keep her offenders on the straight path and a lid on her self-destructive behavior. Of course, since this is Pelecanos, they also get tangled up in an escalating beef between drug gangs, one of which is led by Lorenzo's old friend Nigel.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Don't get me wrong, I love George Pelecanos' book, writing style, characters, etc., but I was a little disappointed by this one. Maybe part of my frustration was that I didn't find any of the characters particularly engaging. Lorenzo Brown, the ex-con animal control officer, and his parole officer, Rachel Lopez, are Pelecanos' new protagonists of the book. I thought they were only loosely sketched out, and they didn't end up seeming as "human" or sympathetic as some of his other characters in previous works. Because of that, I was somewhat bored with the novel's pacing; it seems to plod along more than most of Pelecanos' other books.

I won't go over the plot or main characters in great detail, as many of the previous reviewers have already done so at great length. The reader is presented with an almost inevitable outcome for the book -- doom. But that's clearly appropriate for Pelecanos' modern noir style. The book is written in Pelecanos' gritty, street-smart style, and his knowledge and portrayal of DC is as good as ever. He certainly can't be criticized on those accounts.

Having criticized the book, I should note that it was an enjoyable read (significantly better than most modern crime fiction on the market) and I fully intend to read Mr. Pelecanos' future efforts. I'd recommend the book to any die-hard fans of Pelecanos or modern crime / noir fiction. Casual readers might be better advised to read some of Pelecanos' other books first in order to truly see how engaging of a writer he can be. I think if I'd simply liked the protagonists a bit more, I'd have rated this one higher; as is, I just didn't care about them enough.
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