What It Was and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Usually ships within 1 to 3 weeks.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Eligible for Amazon's FREE Super Saver/Prime Shipping, 24/7 Customer Service, and package tracking. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

What It Was Paperback – January 23, 2012

See all 13 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$1.97 $0.01

Frequently Bought Together

What It Was + The Cut (Spero Lucas) + Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go
Price for all three: $39.97

Buy the selected items together

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought


The Bone Clocks
David Mitchell's hypnotic new novel crackles with invention and sheer storytelling pleasure. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books; First Edition edition (January 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316209540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316209540
  • ASIN: 0316209546
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


a taut, lyrical, nostalgic look at times gone by and the morality which remains. CATHOLIC HERALD --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

George Pelecanos is the author of several highly praised and bestselling novels, including The Cut, What It Was, The Way Home, The Turnaround, and The Night Gardener. He is also an independent-film producer, an essayist, and the recipient of numerous international writing awards. He was a producer and Emmy-nominated writer for The Wire and currently writes for the acclaimed HBO series Treme. He lives in Maryland.

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.

Related Media

Customer Reviews

I'd read a new book every month from him.
This is the kind of story I was waiting to read from Pelecanos, he writes with good characters, crisp dialog and slick style.
Lou pendergrast
I just felt that the story was not very interesting and the characters were a bit mundane.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By PTD on January 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've long been a fan of Pelecanos' work, my initiation starting with his novel RIGHT AS RAIN, and continuing along after that joyride to include his other works. I was struck from the beginning by the authenticity of his characters, the rhythm of his writing, and his powerful handling of violence. His work has a verisimilitude often absent in genre fiction. He isn't a crime novelist, he's a NOVELIST, period. I'm of the opinion that Pelecanos never makes a wrong note. I've read SHOEDOG, one of his lesser known novels, more than a handful of times. Now, to his latest work. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new Pelecanos shortly on the heels of THE CUT, his hardcover released late last year (another gem, by the way). The surprise was then elevated upon learning that this newest novel would return to the world of Derek Strange, a character I've grown to love. But then, I love all of the characters in Pelecanos' world, from Nick Stefanos, to Terry Quinn, to...well, you get the point. This newest novel gripped me from page one and never let up steam. Written in scenes both cinematic and rhythmic (vignettes)told from the points of view of several characters, WHAT IT WAS is a study in how a crime novel should be written. Violent but emotionally satisfying, poignant in its rendering of the human condition (here you have the criminal perspective, the police perspective, the private investigator perspective, the girlfriends riding shotgun with their criminal boyfriends perspective--all handled with aplomb). To say that Pelecanos is a master is an understatement. I'd read a new book every month from him. Kudos.

Phillip Thomas Duck
author of Triage: A Thriller (Shell Series)
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Erin on January 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Much of the attention around George Pelecanos' new book, WHAT IT WAS, has focused on the quite brilliant way that the good folks at Mulholland Books are publishing and marketing it. In case you haven't read about it, instead of the standard e-book and hardcover release followed months later by a paperback edition, WHAT IT WAS is available now as a 99-cent e-book, a trade paperback for $9.99, or a limited-edition, signed and slip-cased hardcover for $35.

I think this is quite brilliant, but the reality is that it wouldn't matter a whit if the story contained on the paper or e-pages wasn't up to snuff. Luckily for us all, WHAT IS WAS is one of Pelecanos' best, second only to RIGHT AS RAIN in my estimation.

WHAT IT WAS is set in 1972. Derek Strange has hung out his private investigator shingle. His former partner, Frank Vaughn, is still on the force. Red "Fury" Jones, a villain for the ages, is wreaking havoc in Washington DC, which Pelecanos brings to life in a manner that makes the reader quite certain she was actually there.

Many have called WHAT IT WAS noir, and I'm sure the label fits, but for me, it's much more than noir. Derek Strange has been a favorite character for years and for him to remain surprising and engaging is testament to Pelecanos' awesome storytelling prowess. Pelecanos obviously respects his setting, character and stories because he shortchanges none of them. Even the ancillary characters--like Red's girlfriend and sidekick or Strange's mistress or mom--are so vivid that I wouldn't have been surprised to have any one of them knock on my front door (ok, a little surprised, but you know what I mean).

Pelecanos has always been unapologetic in his storytelling, both in his books and on TV shows "The Wire" and "Treme.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Rosselle on February 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
George Pelecanos is among my favorite crime novelists, but this effort clearly lacks the heft of his full-blown novels. I stumbled onto it at a bookstore, not knowing or expecting he had a new one coming out. At first I thought it was a re-issue from years earlier or something. That it came out in paperback without first appearing in hardback signals its difference: Figuring in the relatively large font and slim page count, the novel is probably half the length of The Turnaround or The Night Gardener. I was pleased that it featured (a younger version of) the Derek Strange character; I really enjoyed the trilogy of books featuring the PI beginning with Right as Rain. But I was constantly annoyed with Pelecanos' all-too-frequent descriptions of music and cars. He's always done this, and when used sparingly it helps to set a scene and mood, and in this case create verisimilitude in a novel set in 1972. But his editor was asleep on this one; needed to rein in at least half of this nonsense, because it starts to get in the way of the reader's enjoyment of the story. Elmore Leonard says when he's editing his own stuff that if it sounds to him like writing, then he rewrites it. I'm not sure what Pelecanos is doing with all the music and car details, but it must have to do with something other than the story (like conveying his personal taste in such things). He should take some advice from Leonard and rewrite it before foisting it on readers.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By brazos49 VINE VOICE on February 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Pelecanos is a big favorite of mine and I just recently really enjoyed The Cut. But, this book seemed like kind of a "mail it in" effort by him. He's cutting his books a little short, it seems to me. Maybe that sounds odd - "the restaurant's food was lousy and the portions were so small", kind of thing. What's different here is that I felt he was shortcutting the character development. Particularly the mob guys in this book. They had a fairly important role, but I didn't think they were well described to the reader. When those kinds of descriptions are what makes you a standout author, it doesn't pay to scrimp on them.

The story was pretty predictable. I enjoyed it, but I know the author can do better. I hope he gets back on track with his next book. I've read all of his books and just didn't find this one to be of the same quality as others.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?