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The Turnaround Hardcover – August 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316156477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316156479
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,819,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In yet another gem of urban noir, bestseller Pelecanos (The Night Gardener) explores the possibility of making the turnaround, of starting over and building a new life, regardless of the past. One summer day in 1972, three teenage white boys—Alex Pappas and his friends Billy Cachoris and Pete Whitten—drive into a poor Washington, D.C., neighborhood, high on booze and weed, looking for trouble. They confront three young black men, Billy winds up dead and Alex badly beaten. In 2007, Alex runs the family coffee shop, as did his father, and grieves for his son, recently killed in Iraq. Then, one of the black survivors of the incident contacts Alex, opening a door that may finally put the trauma of the past to rest. At the same time, another survivor, the man who beat Alex, has gotten out of prison and has extortion on his mind. The result is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel of crime, friendship, aging and redemption. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

While some may see shades of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities in Pelecanos’s plot—both deal with the after effects of a racially charged incident in the inner city—in reality they have little in common. Critics all commended Pelecanos’s ethos and his focus on what it means to be a man in modern America, rich and poor and white and black. Some praised the experience he gained writing for the HBO series The Wire, which focused on the problems of people a lot like those in The Turnaround. There was the occasional hint that the repeated focus on What It Means to Be a Man bordered on annoying, but if anyone can use the mystery novel as a vehicle for introspection and spiritual longing, it’s Pelecanos.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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

Great characters, great relationships, fantastic plot and premise.
P. Cleaveland
His choice of words always seems correct and often his descriptions of mundane every day events hit with a subtle yet powerful force that leaves the reader near tears.
Trent Reinsmith
I did not care for the ending too much, but it doesn't take away from the style of the book at all.
C.I. Essesspee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on July 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I recently read the detective novel "Shame the Devil" by George Pelecanos. While I generally liked it, there was something missing, something that wasn't quite right. It was good, but I felt it could have been better. I wasn't sure how it could be improved, only that I thought that there was something about the book that could stand improvement. After reading the latest offering from Pelecanos, "The Turnaround", I now know what the problem was, at least for me. "Shame the Devil" is a detective novel; Pelecanos writes a serviceable one; "The Turnaround", by contrast, is a crime novel. There's no real detective in the plot, and not much of a mystery if you're paying attention. Instead, there's a great story, and that makes all the difference. "Shame the Devil" is a good book; "The Turnaround" is one of the best books I've read in years, steeped in atmosphere and character, and a very good book.

"The Turnaround" starts with a racial incident in the early 1970s in Washington D.C., where all of Pelecanos' books are set. Apparently he also has stuck with Greek main characters, for some reason. The Pappas family, the center of the book, runs a diner in downtown, feeding the breakfast and lunch crowd. The center of the book, at the start, is the family patriarch, John. He runs the business cannily, and hopes that one day one of his sons will take over the restaurant. Instead, one of his sons is involved in a racial incident, in which there are epithets yelled, and someone gets killed. Fast forward three and a half decades, a new generation runs the store, and those who were involved in the incident are either back from prison or reminded of it somehow. They have different agendas, and want different things, and how this plays out is the main part of the book.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Trent Reinsmith on July 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Turnaround is the 15th Washington DC based novel authored by George Pelecanos. Critical acclaim for his novels as well as for his writing on HBO's The Wire has been fairly easy to come by for Mr. Pelecanos. Commercial success, on the other hand has somewhat escaped him. His peers and coworkers on The Wire, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane have both experienced sales that have, to date, eluded Pelecanos. Someone that has read all three authors for any amount of time would tell you that this fact is a damn shame, for Pelecanos writes with just as much power and emotion as Price or Lehane. With The Turnaround, George Pelecanos may finally be poised to break big.

In his early novels, Pelecanos wrote mostly hard-boiled/crime/detective stories and while these books were examples of great genre writing, they were just that, focused on the genre. With each book the writing of Mr. Pelecanos has progressed. As of late, while he has used some type of crime as a jumping off point, his writing has become more focused on people and their place in society. The Turnaround continues in this sociological vein.

The Turnaround begins on a hot summer day in 1972 when three white teenagers drive into a black neighborhood and come across three young men who were born and grew up in the neighborhood. Two of the boys in the car, full of youth, testosterone, booze and weed make decisions that have dire results. Their words and actions leave Billy Cachoris shot dead. Peter Whitten makes a running escape while the third boy, Alex Pappas, is left beaten and scarred due to his indecision. The three local teens also make decisions that they will carry with them for their lifetimes.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter on September 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a massive fan of George Pelecanos and regard his work highly but this book was perhaps his weakest.

The story begins with a racial incident that results in a death then we fast-forward 35 years to today. The participants have continued on with their lives be it prison or working.

Through the actions of one of the characters, they meet up again.

Now, I am all for the sins of the past being revisited and it is a common theme in detective/crime fiction but this novel just didn't really click with me.

The characters tended not to be very well fleshed out and certain events tended to be too pat. The ending was too perfect for my tastes as well.

Maybe I am being too critical, but the author has sent the quality benchmark in his books so high, I feel this book is a "turnaround" from that benchmark.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By AS on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Let me first say that I love George Pelecanos. He wrote some of the best episodes of "The Wire" and I read "The Night Gardener," "Soul Circus" and "Hard Revolution" with great earnestness. No writer that I'm aware of captures urban America with as much detail and flair as he does.

He gives you a great feeling of "being there" - in this case D.C. - and he does it through the details of what people wear, the music they listen to, the cars they drive, the booze they drink, the look of the buildings. I love it how he captures the brand names of the products people consume and what it says about them. He's great at that. This is familiar to anyone who's read one of his novels and its almost instantly winnable.

And perhaps that's why "The Turnaround" was, well, too familiar in a way. Pelecanos does not seem to change up the archetypes in his novels too much. There's always pot-smoking wayward youth, a foolish and violent ghetto villain, and the middle-aged, hard-working blue collar heroes who claw their way through the twisted world to find justice.

Unlike his other novels, much of "The Turnaround" is not set in the hood. He doesn't seem preoccupied with society as much in this one as he is with how individual characters respond to and process events. In that sense, it's refreshing and different and perhaps more humanistic. But, come on, can he write one character that does not praise '70s R&B and soul?!? I just feel that he could benefit from changing it up a bit more. The dialogue was too similar to his other stories.

Also, I wasn't happy with the ending. The ending of "The Night Gardener" by comparison was very raw and striking and powerful, but this one was well.... you'll see. I thought the writing in this one was just a touch off too.
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