Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Review of "Drama City" [59]

Drama City by George Pelecanos
Little, Brown and Company, ISBN 978-0316608213
March 22, 2005, 304 pages

Lorenzo Brown knows he has two choices.
He can go straight, stay clean or die on the streets on in prison.
And he is doing his best to make the first work.

After eight years in prison for deal drugging..and refusing to rat out his "boys"..he is now back in his old Washington D.C neighborhood, trying to turn things around. He has a job working as an investigator for the Humane Society, trying to save animals that are being mistreated, one of the "Dog Police" with a badge and a uniform. The neighborhood kids often mock him as he walks his dogs, picking up after her, and think that he has gone soft. But he has not. No, inside he is the same man, capable of anger and violence, one 12 step program and a lot of self control from acting that way again.

Rachel Lopez is Lorenzo's parole officer and she tries to do a good job in what is often a hopeless situation. She known many of her paroles will end up back in trouble, but for a few, like Lorenzo, she has hope. She is hard but fair and has earn some respect from most of her paroles and,  from some like Lorenzo, what almost might be considered a sort of friendship. But they don't know the other Rachel, the one that gets dressed up at night, goes to hotel bars, drinks way, way to much and picks up strangers to have sex with. But things are getting out of hand and her nightlife is starting to bleed over into her day life.
When a small mistake triggers a turf war between two rival drug gangs, one headed by Lorenzo's old friend Nigel, and Rachel finds herself accidentally in the middle, Lorenzo has a decision to make. How far is he willing to go, what is he willing to endanger, for retribution?

Drama City is a hard book to categorize. Not a great deal happens, the plot is pretty simple. It is not really a mystery, or a thriller, not a police procedural or even a crime novel. I like the term I saw somewhere..urban-noir. This is often a rather dark story, a character driven story with great characters. It is a quiet yet moving story.
Again, we are in the city Pelecanos knows very well, D.C. and it is not a pretty sight. It is an often violent place and an often hopeless place and as we grow to like Lorenzo and care about him, we can not help but fear that there is no way this is going to end well. We see him sitting with a friend on his porch at night, enjoying a beer, holding his dog or meeting a young single mother with an adorable child, a neighbor of his grandmother, and we are afraid one act will make it all, these simple pleasures, go away forever.
This Washington has, like the mask of drama, two faces,
"...them two faces they got hangin' over the stage in those theaters," Nigel says. "The smiling face and the sad."
"City got more than two sides," Lorenzo says.
"Whatever it got," Nigel answers, "you on the right side now. The side where people get up and go to work. Wash their cars out in the street, tend to their gardens. Watch their kids grow."
Is it possible that Lorenzo will be able stay on that right side? The strength of this book is that we come to care whether he does.

My second book by Mr. Pelecanos and my second strong recommendation.


  1. I read the first few book this author released and enjoyed them. Sounds like it is time to start up with him once again.....too little time though. Glad u enjoyed this one Caite.

  2. did you read the hunger games? im reading it now. its pretty odd and creepy..

  3. Both my husband and I love Pelecanos' work. We have that book but haven't read it yet.


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