Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hard Revolution: A Derek Strange Novel

Hard Revolution works as a prequel for Pelecanos’s Quinn-Strange books and as an important piece in his interwoven portrait of Washington D.C. that he has painted via the medium of serial fiction. The ’68 riots and their influence on the city has long been a motif in his work. This moment of rage and self destruction that has cast a decade’s long shadow on the black working class and their neighborhoods. Pelecanos uses a stripped down reporter style delivery (even more than usual) that still manages to convey emotional weight and boil over with tension. Like British author Kim Newman Pelecanos must know what’s on his characters record shelves, and the scratchy Stax singles, sappy Motown ballads, 50’s crooners, and Link Wray’s blaring odes to teenage delinquency which avoid prototypical 60’s musical references have a lot to say about the working class world his character live in as the climatic events of 60’s (Vietnam, race riots and assassinations) rip apart their world. The Strange and Quinn stories represent a more mature but more restrained Pelecanos making them a step down from his masterful D.C. Quartet but this book is as energetic and large as those combining the historical exuberance of the Big Blowdown and King Suckerman with the more chilling soul scraping of Shame the Devil, but with an added element of a celebration of humanity for all its gouges and bruises of the soul. Cinematic energy( with references/homage I believe to Taxi Driver and Peckinpah’s The Getaway), with greatest set pieces like a heartbreaking and edge of the seat thrilling bank robbery feels like the conclusion, but then with out a break the apocalyptic reckoning of the riots descends on the book. Hard Revolution is an important and terrific book (a tie maybe with Sweet Forever for his best in my mind) in the Pelecanos’s canon.

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