I'd grown aware of George Pelecanos' work as a writer on "Treme" and "The Wire" and read one of his entertaining blogs on the New York magazine site. Pelecanos on his blog made insightful comments about movies and books, and I ran across his web site upon which he had similar interesting commentary. Aware of his reputation as the author of Washington, D.C.-based crime novels, I decided to try one of his books.
In my reading life, I've largely avoided the macho two-fisted, guns and blood genres, outside of James Lee Burke's cartoonish sagas set in South Louisiana. Outside of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, I considered the mystery area a dismal swamp. The spy novels of John LeCarre bored me, and I disdained series such as Lee Child's Jack Reacher splatterfests. A couple of Elmore Leonards were OK, but I didn't consider him as wonderful as all the accolades I'd read.
But, deciding I had been too squeamish and that Pelecanos offer literary virtues, I chose his "Hard Revolution," which takes place before and after the black riots in the nation's capital following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. I bought "Hard Revolution" on my Nook and found the book compulsively readable, despite a few technical glitches that all too often mar the e-reading experience.
Still, I was bothered by Pelecanos' contrived and exploitative violence. The long descriptions of the Washington riots were instructive in reminding how racially and socially polarized the country was when I was young, but the passages about the burning and looting of businesses detracted from the characters' stories. The brutish thugs seemed one-dimensional, cynically reflecting racial stereotypes. While his dialogue is a strength, Pelecanos at times hit off-key notes in his rendition of the terse, pithy crime style.
Overall, "Hard Revolution's" weaknesses outweighed its strengths. The violence gave me an unresolved sense of disgust and revulsion. I thought I would want to read a few more of Pelecanos' books, but one taste might be quite enough.