A Book by George Pelecanos
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2006, Volume 13, #5
Written by John Metzger
Sometimes, itís the simplest tales that gain the most traction and carry the most resonance. Such is the case with George Pelecanosí latest novel Drama City. Set on the gritty, ghetto-lined streets of Washington, D.C., the story revolves around two central characters: Lorenzo Brown, a recently paroled ex-con who is trying to stay straight, and Rachel Lopez, a dedicated probation officer who, nevertheless, spends her nights drinking heavily and picking up strangers in seedy hotel bars. When a minor dispute ignites a turf war between rival drug chiefs Nigel Johnson and Deacon Taylor, Brown and Lopez find themselves caught in the midst of it. From the moment that Drama City begins, the pair seemingly march towards a preordained conclusion, and the only question that lingers ó even through the final chapter ó is whether they can transcend their pasts or whether their lives will spiral out of control.
Drama Cityís narrative is undeniably straightforward, and to his credit, Pelecanos never resorts to employing cheap gimmicks ó such as jarringly unexpected incidents or manufactured theatrics ó to captivate the reader. What makes the novel such a success is his extraordinary gift for authentically telling a tale. In essence, the first half of Drama City follows Brown, Lopez, and their supporting cast through a typical day, and this serves not only to set up the plot point upon which the entirety of the story hangs but also, more importantly, to develop the complexity of its characters. Pelecanos reveals with slow deliberation each nuance of their personalities, and he subtly describes how each decision that they make ripples through the world that he has created for them. In the process, he examines the nature of addiction and recovery, and he ponders the difficulties encountered while trying to escape the hand that life has dealt. In other words, itís the seemingly innocuous details that define Drama City and turn it into something far greater than just another book about inner city revenge and retribution.
Drama City is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box