“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strange Days Indeed

I read the latest George Pelecanos, WHAT IT WAS, last week, and very enjoyable is exactly what it was. It’s a Derek Strange ‘origins’ novel, set in 1972, with Watergate simmering away in the background; as well as Derek Strange, it features Frank Vaughn and Nick Stefanos. Derek even wanders by a record store called Nutty Nathan’s at one point …
  If it all sounds a little self-referential, it is - but in a good way, a bringing it all back home kinda way. There’s something oddly elegiac about the tone, given that it’s an origins story; but at the same time the novel fairly bops along, a swaying, swaggering, finger-clicking slice of funked-up cool. I’ll review it in a bit more depth in a week or so, when I’ve finally surfaced for air; for now I’ll leave you with an interview with George Pelecanos I had published in the Irish Times today. It starts a lot like this:
“LET ME ASK you a question,” George Pelecanos says as our interview comes to an end. “Are you a Thin Lizzy fan?” Given my Dublin connection, he has been itching to ask it all along. “I just think it’s an amazing story,” he says. “I get chills when I think that there’s a statue of Phil Lynott on a street in Dublin, that people leave flowers by the statue. I love stuff like that.”
  Music has always played an important part in George Pelecanos’s novels. From his debut A Firing Offense in 1992, his characters have prowled the mean streets of Washington DC, tapping a toe to a bewildering variety of sounds, from the swing jazz of the 1930s through the funk rock of the 1970s and on to the contemporary sounds of last year’s The Cut. In fact, it was music that taught him how to write his own way.
  Pelecanos wasn’t much of a reader until his mid-20s – “Until then I wanted to be a filmmaker, I was a real film nut” – but then he took a class in classic crime fiction. The curriculum included Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald and James Crumley.
  “All these books blew me away,” he says. “I mean, even an early Mickey Spillane, that’s a good book. I got obsessed with books after taking that class. And by books I mean crime novels.”
  Rejecting the notion of a formal writing class, Pelecanos instead chose to immerse himself in reading. “It took me 10 years before I sat down to write my first novel,” he says. “By then it was the 1980s, the punk thing had happened, and I was heavily involved in that. And I got the idea that what I was going to do was write a punk rock detective novel …”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

3 comments:

Dana King said...

I appreciate how good Pelecanos is, but he's one of those writers whose books don't quite connect with me. (I've read interviews and seen him speak and he's fascinating.) I think it's the amount of time he spends on music and cars. I'm not a car guy, and didn't listen to rock during the periods he writes. He uses the music and cars--effectively, I presume, from the reception--to set his time and place, and I miss all the references.

I still read him, though. I know it's me who's not getting it, and maybe some day i will.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana: Interesting to read such a comment from a musician.

This comment gives me my first good verification since Blogger switched to its new verification system. At least, the last seven letters of the first of the two verification words are entertaining, though perhaps not something one would want to experience too often: drypint

seana said...

Pelecanos has been recommended to me by people I respect and I did love The Wire, so I don't know why I haven't gotten on to him yet.

Very interesting interview.