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on August 27, 2016
In the opening scene of the classic HBO series "The Wire" a Baltimore homicide detective interviews the witness to a seemingly senseless murder of a teenager in the street and wants to know why the victim's street name was "Snot Boogie" and why he was shot. Reading "The Wire" producer David Simon's journal of a year spent with the Baltimore homicide department when he was a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, I was certain that scene was so real it had to be in the book somewhere. And it was, toward the end.
Simon was attuned to life on the gritty, city streets of Baltimore with an ear for the argot unlike any other producer of a TV crime show or crime writer. It showed in the TV series "Homicide: Life on the Streets," "The Corner," and lastly his masterpiece, "The Wire," and it shows in this pull-no-punches book. The senseless killings, the frustration of the detectives when confronted with a stone-cold "who-dun-it" they knew would never get solved, the anger when obviously guilty people they had arrested went free after trial ... it's all here, and more. As I read this book, I could see the models for the characters who appeared in the TV shows (I didn't even need to see the photos of the actors playing these models to figure out who they were) being developed. It isn't easy to make non-fiction a gripping read, but David Simon makes it look easy.
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on May 10, 2015
As a huge fan of The Wire (I've watched the series through at least 5 times), I can't believe I only read this just now. This book is probably my favorite narrative nonfiction book of all time now, along with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It is written much like a novel, with engaging stories and characters throughout.

The best part is that, like real life, not all of the storylines get neatly tied off in a bow. Just like life, politics dictates that resources are shifted from one case that has gone cold to the next hot case.

The bits about interrogation are also amazing, tackling interview techniques used by cops, discussion around Miranda warnings and the 5th Amendment, and how cops have to ork around these limitations.

Really awesome stuff. If you have ever been interested in Law & Order, The Wire, Radley Balko, or issues of police brutality or effectiveness, or if you have ever lived in an American city, or in America, I consider this a must-read. Do it!
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on December 3, 2014
This book honestly should be required reading. Too often citizens do not know what the police have to deal with on a daily basis, or have unreasonable expectations on what constitutes evidence. We watch CSI, Law and Order, NCIS, and other procedurals and the guilt of a suspect is without a doubt. There is the proverbial smoking gun. And yet homicide detectives have to piece together cases and find suspects based on intuition, luck, and good old fashioned detective work. Those who earn their living solving homicides routinely see the dark side of humanity, and there often is no happy ending. No reckoning. No justice for the guilty This is a hard life for those who protect the citizens and try to bring murderers to justice. If you like police procedurals, then this is the holy bible of police procedurals, out of the mouths of Baltimore's finest.
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on August 13, 2002
This is an excellent book! The characters in it are engaging. The dialogue is wonderful. And the situations are both scary and amazing: amazing in how so stupid some people are and how little it takes for someone to kill someone else, scary because it is all true.
In case you weren't aware of that, this book is actually the story of one of Baltimore's homicide units in 1988. Simon went around with the detectives for the entire year and have put their stories down in this book.
At times it is quite sad to read about the brutal atrocities that people are committing against each other. At times it is satisfying to read about the detectives tracking down or lucking in to catching those responsible for the many deaths. But it is always engrossing and fascinating to follow the process and the people involved in one of the uglier jobs possible. This book is a must for any fan of police stories, criminal investigations or anything related to law and order. And in case you further didn't realize it, this book was the basis for the tv show of the same name. It makes the show even scarier to know that not only is it based on real life, but many of the stories from the show are taken straight out of the book. If you were a fan of the show, you will easily recognize many of the exact same cases here in the book. (Or rather vice versa since the book was first.) Easily one of the best books that I've read in a while!
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on March 19, 2017
The Wire and Homicide are about people, good, bad and in between. It is their humanity that makes Simon's writing so interesting. Homicide is a fairly long book, but I could not put it down. Highly recommended!
Watch the HBO series The Wire to see many of the real people in the book portrayed.
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on January 18, 2017
Years later nothing has changed. The "Balmor" P.D. is still shoveling sand against the tide. However, on the bright side, Balmor was not number one in homicides in 2016. That honor belongs to — drum roll please. Trumpet blasts : Detroit with 762 killings last year. I lost track of how many just plain shootings took place. You're safer on patrol with the Marines in Helmond Province, Afghanistan than you are making a Stop 'N Rob run in either Detroit or Balmor. It was an interesting read and the police in the book are to be commended for their dedication to a frustrating task.
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on January 4, 2013
To say that David Simon's book HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS is iconic would be a bit of an understatement. It is the recipient of the 1992 Edgar Award (an award created by the Mystery Writers of America) and has spawned not one but TWO television shows: HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS and THE WIRE, both of which are critically acclaimed and the latter which is a favorite of many noteworthy people, including President Barack Obama. But what is it about the book that endears it to true crime fans and that makes it a prime candidate for television shows?

I'd only heard of HOMICIDE and THE WIRE in passing, and only after I was halfway through the book did I start to watch the former. I picked up HOMICIDE because it came highly recommended as research material for how criminal investigations work and how police officers act, think, and feel. I bought the book when I was in Baghdad back in 2008, and it's been sitting on my shelf since then. Only when I decided it was time to pursue my goal of writing a cop thriller did I finally dust it off the shelf and crack it open.

My only regret is that I didn't pick it up sooner.

HOMICIDE is full of dark humor, moments of redemption, and gut-wrenching instances that make you simultaneously question your faith in humanity and give thanks that such men stand ready to bring the perpetrators to justice. For me, three detectives stood out: Donald Worden, the veteran of the squad who would haze the younger detectives and often ask for a quarter (when this is explained at the end of the book, it's a real, "Oh! NOW I get it!" moment); Tom Pellegrini, the new guy fresh from the mayor's protection detail, who's slammed with a real whodunit out the gate, and a heinous one at that: the rape and murder of young Latonya Wallace; and Harry Edgerton, a rare black detective that hails from New York, operates as a lone wolf, and despite his many enemies on the force, undeniably produces results. There were often times where I forgot I was reading a work of nonfiction, as the characters enraptured me better than many fictional works I had read.

Simon's prose is top notch. It's tight, gritty, and spurs the reader forward. Most importantly, it's unadulterated: the detectives themselves requested very few changes, and the Baltimore Police Department's review yielded no changes. The best feature of the prose is that it's real. You can tell that while it may enthrall like the best thriller, this is real life. These are crimes that actually occurred to people, and these are the men who deal with death on a regular basis, dispassionately facing death and working in it to find the truth.

Hands down, HOMICIDE is a must-read for any fan of the true crime genre, or for those looking to see how real detective work is done. And as the closing remarks from Terry McLarney state, not much has changed since that year on the killing streets.
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on November 27, 2013
While he was working at the Baltimore Sun, David Simon somehow persuaded the Baltimore Police Department to allow him to spend a year with their homicide detectives, watching & writing about everything he saw & heard, & the result is extraordinary. The year was 1988, when Baltimore had one of the nation's highest murder rates. (It hasn't gotten much better since; the Sun recently boasted about the fact that for 2012, the city was no longer in the top 5. It's now #6 - & it's never been out of the top 10.) The BPD was & remains understaffed & underfunded, & the homicide department is on the front lines in the disastrous "War on Drugs." Simon's writing is as entertaining & engrossing as the best police procedural fiction, but he never lets you forget that these people are real. Some murders are solved within minutes (hard to miss a suspect still standing over the victim, spattered with her blood), some within a few hours (when the murderer calls the house where he left the body to see how things are going & an investigator answers the phone), some never - a lovely little 12 year old girl is violated & slaughtered & her body dumped in an alley, & although the primary investigator is pretty sure whodunit, he never pulls together enough evidence to charge the suspect. Some of the stories are gruesomely funny - for example, a girl survives multiple murder attempts by a relative, who eventually turns out to have murdered or arranged the murders of at least a half dozen other people for the proceeds on the insurance policies she took out on their lives; the BPD gets an exhumation order for one of the victims but it turns out to be some other guy b/c the cemetery wasn't keeping accurate records of where bodies were buried. Many of the cases are exasperating - drug-related shootings are virtually impossible to solve, in part b/c there are no witnesses & in part b/c the witnesses don't want to put themselves & their families at risk by talking to the police. And the rest of us have spent so much time watching shows like CSI that it's easy for a defense attorney to persuade a jury that, in the absence of DNA & fingerprint evidence, they "must acquit." What is most remarkable is how Simon brings every human being in this book - from the police who are his main focus, to the victims & murderers, to the damaged & hapless bystanders - to vivid life. He won't let you not care about these people. BTW, after you read this, then read "The Corner," which is about a year in the lives of people living in Baltimore's drug-wrecked inner city. Equally gripping.
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on November 25, 2015
This is not a who-done-it! It is a year of fly-on-the-wall observations of the world of work which happens to take place in the homicide department of the Baltimore police department. The investigation of a murder basically rests on the shoulders of one man but the work resides within a team within a department within a quasi-military bureaucracy within a judicial system within a city government. This book is an honest portrayal of homicide detective work in the inner city. It was the basis for Homicide and The Wire.
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on February 14, 2016
For fans of The Wire, David Simon's groundbreaking book is a real pageturner. One year in BPD Homicide, all those things you saw in the show, are based on true stories. So many scenes in the Wire are just re-enactments of things Simon witnessed and heard about. You let Stink play dice even though he always steals the pot and runs?" "This is America man, got to"
The relentless search for the Killer, the family, the pressure to close cases, its all in there. The "Red Ball" child murder case everybody wants to know about. These are the men and women who dealt with death on a daily, and nightly basis, as shift changes every 2 weeks.
I wish there was more like this.
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