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Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets Paperback – August 22, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 236 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This 1992 Edgar Award winner for best fact crime is nothing short of a classic. David Simon, a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun, spent the year 1988 with three homicide squads, accompanying them through all the grim and grisly moments of their work--from first telephone call to final piece of paperwork. The picture that emerges through a masterful accumulation of details is that homicide detectives are a rare breed who seem to thrive on coffee, cigarettes, and persistence, through an endlessly exhausting parade of murder scenes. As the Washington Post writes, "We seem to have an insatiable appetite for police stories.... David Simon's entry is far and away the best, the most readable, the most reliable and relentless of them all.... An eye for the scenes of slaughter and pursuit and an ear for the cadences of cop talk, both business and banter, lend Simon's account the fascination that truth often has." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Baltimore Sun reporter Simon spent a year tracking the homicide unit of his city's police, following the officers from crime scenes to interrogations to hospital emergency rooms. With empathy, psychological nuance, racy verbatim dialogue and razor-sharp prose, he offers a rare insider's look at the detective's tension-wracked world. Presiding over a score of sleuths is commander Gary D'Addario, "connoisseur of survival" who grapples with political intrigue, massive red tape and "red balls" (major, difficult cases). His detectives include Tom Pelligrini, obsessed with solving the rape-murder of an 11-year-old girl; Rich Garvey, whose "perfect year" is upset by a murder case that collapses in court; and black, cosmopolitan Harry Edgerton, a lone wolf, son of a jazz pianist. This hectic daily log reveals the detective's beat on Baltimore's mean streets (234 murders in 1988) to be brutal, bureaucratic and, occasionally, mundane.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080759
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Ellis on September 19, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Appropriately enough, one of the best cop shows in the history of television was based on one of the best true crime books ever written. Journalist David Simon spent a year observing Baltimore Homicide detectives and it is their poignantly true stories -- almost all as funny, heartbreaking, and memorable as any fiction -- that make up this book. While fans of the TV show will immediately recognize the initial templates for such beloved characters as Frank Pembleton, Bayliss, Munch, and others, this amazing book is much more than just a basis for a classic television show. It is, quite simply, one of the most insightful books about modern law and order ever written. All of the detectives live brilliantly on the page and Simon's prose reminds us what great writing actually is. Though this is a word I've probably overused in this review, there is no other way to describe Simon's achievement: amazing.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will keep this short: I have been a city cop for almost eighteen years and I defy anyone to find a better book about policework than this one. This is the closest you can come to knowing what being a cop is all about short of actually wearing a badge.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've always felt that the main problem with the TV show version of "Homicide" is that, good as it is, it just can't match the gritty realism of the book it is based on. Journalist David Simon spent a year as a fly on the wall observing the Balitimore Police Homicide Unit, and dutifully recording everything he saw by and large without editorial comment. The result is absolutely indespensible for anyone with an interest in law enforcement. Being a homicide detectives is a tough job both emotionally and professionally with many hours of tedium that can often result in the frustration of an unsolved case. Particularly poignant is the story of a unsolved child murder case that haunts one of the detectives to the point of endagering his mental well being. The value of this book to the nation's hard working law enforcement professionals simply cannot be understated.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Simon's Homicide reads not as a murder mystery, not as a documentary, and not as a dramatic novel, but as a life lived in the Baltimore homicide unit. The reader does not feel passive, as though he were watching the goings-on through a filter like a television or even a bystander. The reader is there, with the detectives, sharing their experiences, sharing their very thoughts. This book is a masterpiece, a book that completely enthralls you to the point where during the time you are reading, nothing means more to you than the resolution of each case, each obstacle, each crisis. Please, do yourself a favor and read this remarkable book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was very familar with this book as I am a former member of the Baltimore homicide unit. I did not have a chance in the past to read it, but now that I am retired I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I know most of the homicide members that are mentioned in the unit and some of them worked in my squad when I was there. It certainly depicts what goes on daily in the Baltimore homicide unit.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked up this book without realizing that it was the genesis of the television program by the same name, and I was immediately dragged in to the stories. Written as a yearlong narrative of the events and personalities of the Baltimore Police Homicide Division, it really gives the reader a feeling of being along for the investigation. The dialogue and descriptions are so realistic and insightful that I found myself wondering how the Detectives felt to read this objective reflection of themselves. The pacing of the book contributes to the overall effectiveness of the narrative by educating the reader slowly as to the characters, the lingo and the mentality of a Baltimore homocide detective. By the end (and I was sorry to have it end) I felt like I knew the detectives and the criminals and the victims and their families. If you like true crime, this is the book for you!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The television show was excellent, but HOMICDE the book is much better. It is perhaps one of the finest pieces of narrative non-fiction of the past 50 years. David Simon's background as a journalist for the Sun makes him uniquely qualified to examine the inner workings of a homicide unit, and to lay bare the shortcomings and serious flaws of Baltimore's city government (the action in the book takes place during the worst of the crack wars in the late 80s, but it's remarkable how little things have changed).

What's more, Simon writes with great deadpan humor and is able to find both humanity and wit in this true-life story of the "murder police." He is truly one of the most accomplished narrative writers of our time. I also highly recommend THE CORNER, another look into Baltimore's gritty urban landscape.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The print edition of 'Homicide' has a 8-page set of black and white photos in the middle:

1) 6 portraits of detectives that appear in the book.
2) below them 6 pictures of the characters they inspired in the TV series.
3) and three more: 2 detectives at a crime scene, David Simon at the pub with the guys, The Board.

These pictures are gone from the Kindle edition. Whereas this is a rather minor loss, you are not missing anything essential from the reading experience, something has been subtracted from one edition nevertheless. So you've been warned.
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