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Hell to Pay: A Derek Strange Novel (Derek Strange Novels) Paperback – February 23, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: Derek Strange Novels
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (February 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031609935X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316099356
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Hell to Pay, Washington, D.C., is just one more thug in an endless list of thugs who brutalize the poor, the weak, and the young. The primary victim this time is a rising star on Derek Strange's Pee Wee football team. In this city where making T-shirts for bereaved families of young murder victims is a full-time business, the boy is an accidental victim in a war between drug dealers and lowlifes.

Private investigator Strange, in his second George Pelecanos outing (after 2001's Right as Rain), has seen enough of this face of D.C. His relationship to his secretary/lover Janine sputters in the wake of increasing, irrational infidelities. His moral compass swings wildly as he tracks the killers, Garfield "Death" Potter and friends. Not knowing if he can be satisfied seeing these men in prison, Strange contemplates other brands of "justice."

For fans of Pelecanos, all the usual trappings are here: the hyper-real dialogue, the bloody street fights, the immersion in classic R&B, and the most current music on the streets. Pelecanos does stumble in a few places. His narrative becomes wooden at times, and his plot features a couple of glaring coincidences (e.g., Strange just happens to jot down the license plate of a car that later turns out to be the one driven by the murderers). But Pelecanos is the real deal in noir. If Dennis Lehane owns Boston and Michael Connelly is master of L.A., Pelecanos is dark D.C.'s intimate chronicler. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

You know you're in Pelecanos country when the music begins early a trio of street thugs on their way to a dogfight listen to "the new DMX joint on PGC, turned up loud" and continues to throb all the way through this second book in the author's hardboiled and heartbreaking series centered around Washington, D.C., private detective Derek Strange. A black man in his 50s, Strange first notices these particular thugs when they hang out around a Pee Wee football team he is coaching. Their appearance comes to seem more sinister in retrospect, when Strange's nine-year-old star quarterback is shot and killed at an ice cream stand. While Strange hunts for the men who shot the boy, his partner, Terry Quinn, an Irish Catholic ex-cop, gets pulled into an attempt to save a young runaway turned prostitute from a big-time pimp and falls for one of the tough women organizing the rescue. Meanwhile, Strange goes through a rocky period with his longtime lover (and secretary) Janine, forced to consider what his massage-parlor habit is doing to their relationship. The novel's turf the nontourist parts of Washington, D.C., neighborhoods where so many young black children die that selling T-shirts with their pictures on them at their wakes and funerals has become a cottage industry was staked out successfully in Pelecanos's earlier books about the sons and grandsons of Greek immigrants and now is extended to focus chiefly on the District's black majority. It is Pelecanos's intimate understanding of this volatile D.C. and the complexity of Strange a rich, sometimes frustrating but always warmly human character that should keep this series fresh for a long time to come. (Feb. 19)Forecast: Little, Brown is betting $100,000 in marketing dollars (not to mention a 20-city author tour) that this will be the book that propels cult favorite Pelecanos onto the bestseller lists and they may be right. Few writers deserve a boost as much as the hardworking, fearlessly gritty and engagingly idiosyncratic Pelecanos.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

It didn't annoy me too much.
frumiousb
It is a grim and depressing story about the harsh realities of inner city life.
John D. Costanzo
The action, the suspense, the dialogue are all breathtakingly sharp.
David Montgomery

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Montgomery VINE VOICE on February 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, the salt and pepper detective team first introduced in "Right as Rain" (2000), are back in another stellar mystery from one of the very best writers of contemporary fiction. Forget about the milquetoast scribblers who pop up on Oprah; authors like Pelecanos are where the quality really is.
In the hands of a less-skilled writer, this unlikely duo would seem forced and false, an interracial pair thrown together because it's contemporary and PC. Pelecanos couldn't care less about that, though. Strange and Quinn are together because it works; their skills and personalities not only complement each other, their pairing allows them to access both sides of D.C.'s color divide. Even more than that, these two very different men have gradually, reluctantly formed a real friendship.
Pelecanos does so many things well in his books. The action, the suspense, the dialogue are all breathtakingly sharp. He even provides the soundtrack to his story, music selected to demonstrate his characters moods and attitudes.
It's amazing to me that Pelecanos isn't a bigger name in the mystery field than he is. Maybe his work is too dark or too gritty for the mainstream audience. It certainly is not the result of a lack of quality. You will find few better than him.
Reviewed by David Montgomery, MysteryInkOnline.com
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Untouchable on February 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, who were introduced to us in Right As Rain, return for a second gruelling case that once again takes them (and us) through the sleazy, dangerous backstreets of Washington DC.
Strange is a middle aged black private investigator who is essentially a good man who has to deal with all manner of low-lifes, and consequently is forced to do things that weigh heavily on his mind. Hell To Pay focuses on Strange's devotion to the black youth living in the projects of Washington. He is determined to give them every possible chance to make something of themselves by building self-esteem and confidence.
Furthering the youth theme and, in a way, counterbalancing all his good work, are the two cases that Strange and Quinn work on throughout the book. The first involves a fourteen year old prostitute and their attempts to get her off the streets and back home to her family. The second is the investigation of the murder of a child. This becomes a much more emotional case that turns personal, with Strange walking a moral tightrope.
Once again, Pelecanos has delivered a powerful story that graphically portrays the mean streets and dangerous characters of modern day society. Although relentlessly illustrating the everyday tragedy surrounding us all, there is at least an underlying tone of hope.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Silver Springer on March 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This gritty, hard-boiled crime novel is a little hard to take--I almost didn't make it past the street-tough, violent young perps in the first chapter. But I am glad I presevered for this look that most of us who live in D.C.--I have lived in the D.C. area all of my life--don't see from the suburbs. There is just enough recognizable in the streets, bars, landmarks and radio stations that you know Pelecanos is a D.C. native who knows what goes on in the streets.
P.I. Derek Strange teams up with his white friend and former D.C. cop Terry Quinn to work on several cases. There are many interesting story lines--one missing girl turned prostitute case from the P.I firm, a plot of revenge on two levels--one for "dissing" a street punk and the other for a senseless killing and very personal stories of working with a Pee Wee football team to give neighborhood kids a chance and for Strange and Quinn trying to redeem their own personal lives.
After learning more about Pelecanos, I found out that Derek Strange and other characters have drawn on many aspects of his life--from helping his father in a greasy spoon diner in D.C., to his profiling of a shoe clerk--an occupation he lived for several years--to his frequenting many of the hangouts of Strange and Quinn.
Pelecanos paints a very vivid picture of the hopelessness, crime and the allure of the drug trade for youths with few options and a very short life expectancy. There is hope in his story--through the work of volunteers with football and other youth activities, we see that there is a way out for some of the kids if they choose it. Hell to Pay is a grim story, but I am glad he told it and I read it. I plan to go back and read the first story of Strange and Quinn, "Right as Rain" as well as his early novels.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Trent Reinsmith on February 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
These days there are a handful of names working the hardboiled/detective/cop genre that you can trust: James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane, and Michael Connelly top that list. One name that has hovered around the edges has always been George P. Pelecanos. For Pelecanos to be on the fringe of this group is criminal. Pelecanos is hands down the finest writer working the genre. The question then is why most have never heard of him? I have my thoughts on this subject, but I'll be kind and sum it up to poor marketing on his previous titles.
"Hell to Pay" is Pelecanos' tenth novel and second to feature the team of private investigator Derek Strange and his sometime employee/partner Terry Quinn. As with all of his previous work "Hell to Pay" is centered around the streets of Washington DC. Not the well-lit and clean DC streets that the tourists frequent, but the real DC streets, the streets that are filled with the thrown away and the unwanted. Streets where the wrong look or wrong walk can get you killed. If you think that the DC that Pelecanos operates in has gotten kinder or gentler since last year's "Right as Rain", you're off the mark. "Hell to Pay" begins in the open wound that is the inner city ghetto. Pelecanos introduces us to three of the main characters as they listen to DMX, pack heat, smoke dope, and drink as they prepare to head out to a dogfight.
The first victim to fall in Pelecanos' latest is one Lorenze Wilder, killed for trying to pull a small change burn in a drug deal. The amount of cash lost is of no account, however this is DC and if word gets out that you've been played once, your business will be history, so Wilder goes down. If Wilder would have been murdered alone it would have hardly registered a mention in the press, but Lorenze was not alone.
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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.


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