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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Wire: Truth Be Told
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2007
As with the earlier review, because this book is mostly episode summaries of the TV series, it doesn't give die-hard fans any real production or factual background. There are some interesting sidebar sections about the writers, cast and the city that will appeal to fan interest. But if you've followed all the seasons and own the DVDs, this book won't add much to your appreciation.
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95 of 113 people found the following review helpful
Anyone interested in seeing what a group of creative and compassionate writers bound by little network interference can do with a subject matter and a place caught in the throes of globalization, deindustrialization, and mounting despair and hopelessness for a large segment of the population need go no further than this book. More penetrating and revealing than dry scholarly tomes on these subjects, the writers of this book divulge the often painful tensions of producing, writing, and filming "The Wire," arguably the best dramatic series on television. Precisely because it grows out of the knowledge and life experiences of the producers, writers, and actors who have lived in this city, the series has a ring of authenticity and pathos that past commercial crime series for the most part lacked. Building upon the critical acclaim of "Homicide," the producers and writers led by David Simon and the late Bob Colesberry take "The Wire" to a new level of quality, realism, and art. The discerning watcher is rewarded with complex character sketches, twisting and demanding plots, and stunning filming that almost literally keep the viewer glued to the screen. In addition, the series puts a spotlight on both the irrationalities of the contemporary drug war and the humanity and moral complexity of even the most hardened criminal or drug kingpin. Humor, tragedy, callousness, and irony. Love, sex, drugs, and rock'n roll. Compassion, despair, hope, and avarice. All these ingredients combine into an extended annual series that peels open a layer of the city of Baltimore through stories that tell us much of the hellish possibilities and tender and healing moments of urban America slouching into the first decade of the new Millennium. This is a book with chapters by many of the series' principal contributors. It is a work that deepens one's appreciation for the series' creativity and genius, as well as its profound tragic sense of life and unrelieved tensions. Covering the first two seasons of the program, the book enhances the true fan's knowledge of the series with delightful vignettes, juicy tidbits and nuggets, and honest portraits of the characters who populate the series and the actors who inhabit those characters. Once started, the avid viewer will not be able to put it down. Guaranteed!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2007
This book will be the most rewarding if you're already familiar with The Wire as well as David Simon's earlier work (Homicide; The Corner).

I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews (such as the one with a real-life drugs kingpin), background stories (like the tale of the "real Bubbles") and trivia (cameo roles, music picks etc.) They brought a lot more depth to the show and made me love it even more.

Episode capsules from the first two seasons take up quite a bit of the book, but there's still plenty to discover for devoted fans. Those unfamiliar with the show should probably start with the DVD sets before picking up this book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2008
I got this book just about the time the second season started. I read most of it, then put it down to do other things.

Well "The Wire" is onto its last season so I thought I'd "review" as much of the series as I could, so I read the whole book. First, the series is superior--among the few "honest" television series I've ever noted. It's not feel-good TV like most of that medium are. But it's brutally honest.

The major focus of the book is Season 2, in which Frank Sobotka, the head of Baltimore's longshoreman's union, does his best to keep the union afloat. Unfortunately to do so he must rely on some pretty shady characters many of whom do business with the drug dealers on which the series focuses. But there's also a summary of season 1, and even a preview of Season 3.

There are also interviews with and comments by those who star in and produce the series. So you can learn that Bunk--played by Wendell Peirce, a Julliard grad--is based on a real Ballmer cop. And Bubbles, one of my favorite characters, played superbly well by Andre Royo, got a "street oscar": after make up, a Ballmer drug user approached "Bubbles," gave him some money and said, "You need this more than I do." Then there's the descriptions of the many actors who are actually from the streets of Baltimore!

Some of the series' commentaries are by people I'm not sure who they are (forgive the poor grammar). But the commentaries are great so I don't care who they are. They could be fans, producers, or the man on the street. If what s/he says is well done, who cares?

There's even a memorial to Robert Colesberry, one of the producers who dies unexpectedly after heart surgery at the tender age of 57.

Well, I don't want to go on and on. I passed the book onto a lawyer friend who doesn't subscribe to HBO but who's become "hooked" on "The Wire" which he rents on DVD. Why only four stars? I have a bias against marketing. While I know it's a necessary element of today's economy, it takes up too much time/money in the culture, resources that could be better producing useful items. This book, while fine, and representing, again, perhaps the greatest series in TV history, still is meant to market the series. While I hope it did an effective job of that, I still dislike marketing.

If you're as much of a "Wire" fan as I, get this and learn even more about a fine, fine series.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2010
Finally, the companion and episode guide for the TV show The Wire has arrived! This edition chronicles all five seasons of the critically acclaimed show. At 500+ pages, there is a lot of material to get through. In addition to season summaries, commentaries and individual episode synopsises, there a number of essays that analyze the massive impact of this show in and outside of the entertainment industry. David Simon, the show's creator has even provided an updated introduction.

I think this book is an absolute must-have for any fan of The Wire. Those who have already watched the show will find lots of background information. Those who are watching the show for the first time will find the book helpful to keep track of the multitude of characters, although I really think the better approach is just to immerse yourself in the show, and become the fly on the wall as you piece it all together. I envy anyone watching The Wire for the first time. I remember what that felt like. The Wire is one smart and profound show! This book is it's definitive and authoritative reference work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2009
a book prepared as Wire's season three was being written so in some ways rather limited now. but comments by Simon and the principle writers are all interesting and basically informative. useful if you want to research a few of the ideas behind the show by the people who made many of the formative decisions - rather than just read a fan's gushing recollections.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2011
Someone should alert Simon & Schuster's digital division that this book was revised a couple of years ago to encompass all five seasons of "The Wire" (Amazon offers the updated edition in conventional book form only) but that the version available for Kindle (as I fortunately learned by downloading the preview before committing to a purchase) is the original edition published in 2004, which only covers seasons 1 through 3. With the more comprehensive overview of this great series available, it seems silly for Amazon to only offer the obsolete version for the Kindle, which is supposed to represent the brave new world of reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
Ah, the humble episode guide. Once a solid mainstay of bookshop TV sections all over the world, now hunted to the brink of extinction by the internet. Publishers have had to rethink how their handle TV tie-in books now. A recap of each episode and a cast list doesn't cut it any more, and these books now require more interesting and original content if they are to be successful.

Truth Be Told attempts to be a guide to The Wire that falls into the latter bracket and is somewhat successful. The book rises above the episode guide norm by being written by an actual writer from the TV series (he wrote three episodes for the show) and featuring interviews with the production staff behind the show, as well as some of the actors. There are essays about elements of the show ranging from its realism, its reception by Maryland politicians and a feminist analysis of the series. The Wire's creator and showrunner, David Simon, provides an introduction and there is a long interview between him and author Nick Hornby about the inspiration behind the series.

The standard episode guide format can still be found in this book, with brief (and, it has to be said, rather un-detailed, missing elements such as the blink-and-you-miss-it outing of Rawls in Season 3) recaps of each episode and cast and crew listings. Frustratingly, there isn't a 'behind-the-scenes' section for each individual episode, meaning that as a guide to a TV series it falls way behind the quality of Terry J. Erdmann's Deep Space Nine Companion (still the gold standard for TV companion books).

Much more interesting are the overviews for each seasons, when Simon and other writers and producers give their thoughts on what they were trying to achieve each year, the side-essays and a number of character profiles. These range from the predictable to the insightful, and the feminism essay needs a special mention for the way the writer tries to square the show's limited use of female characters (which could be regarded as problematic) against the real sexism inherent in the institutions the show is depicting (i.e. can you depict real institutions which notably underrepresent women without becoming part of the same problem?).

Ultimately, Truth Be Told (***½) is more than the standard TV episode guide fluff, but ultimately it feels like it has the right idea but doesn't go far enough. Profiles for all of the major characters rather than a handful would have been a start, perhaps with more attention to detail and more in-depth coverage of each individual episode. As it stands, it's a solid companion piece to the TV series, but not an essential one. The book is available now in the UK and USA.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HBO's brilliant, riveting, and sadly underrated series The Wire wrapped up just a short time ago, which makes it all the more worthwhile to revisit or discover this hardcover companion to David Simon's critically acclaimed crime drama. Compiled by series writer and novelist Rafael Alvarez, The Wire: Truth Be Told features insightful commentaries from series creators Simon and Ed Burns, as well as essays by authors George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Anthony Walton, and Joy Lusco Kecken, and episode summarizations of the first two seasons of the series, concluding with the beginning of the third season. Peppered throughout the book are pictures of the actors and scenes from the series, as well as discussions of some of the characters' real-life counterparts, and tributes to late producer Robert F. Colesberry; who if it were not for his involvement, the show possibly would never have existed, let alone made it for five seasons on HBO. Though there are many insightful observations and interesting tales to be found here, as a Wire purist one may wish that there was just more included here. The book itself is a pretty quick read, but is an essential one nevertheless for devoted fans of what may very well have been one of, if not the, greatest programs to ever grace the television screen. All in all, The Wire: Truth Be Told is a more than fine companion piece to the beloved drama, and is by all means worth picking up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2009
The book's most pages describe the plot of each episode in season 1 and 2. Additionally it gives an outlook on season 3. The few pages between are dedicated to interviews and features on the background of The Wire. That last point almost justifies buying the book, but I rather recommend to wait for the 2009 edition that promises to cover all 5 seasons. I'm not aware of other books about The Wire, i.e. in any case there is no alternative.
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