Drama City by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lorenzo Brown, dog catcher and ex-con, struggles to keep from falling back into his old ways, while his parole officer, Rachel Lopez, has some problems of her own. What will happen when two drug factions get into a dispute and Brown and Lopez find themselves caught in the crossfire?
Drama City is a throwback to George Pelecanos DC Quartet. While it's a crime book, it's also a story of life in Washington, DC. In this case, it's the story of a black man trying not to fall back into a life of dealing drugs and a parole officer trying not to let her life go up in flames due to her addictions to sex and booze.
Brown and Lopez are both deeply conflicted characters. It could be that Brown's love of animals and feels toward the young woman and her little girl that he sees every day while walking his dog are all the keeps him from his old life of violence. Lopez has never been in an equal relationship and the idea of one scares her.
Brown's friend from his youth, Nigel Johnson, is a fairly powerful drug dealer. After a minor turf dispute with a rival dealer's thugs, things begin building and Lorenzo is pulled in when he breaks up a dog fighting ring. Melvin Lee, one of the thugs he runs across, shares his parole officer.
Father figures and growing up without a father play important roles in Drama City. Rico Miller, psychopath that he is, sees Melvin as a father figure, and therein is the source of much of the drama that happens in the story. Nigel Johnson sees himself as a father figure to Michael Butler, and when Michael winds up dead, things quickly escalate.
There isn't a lot of action in Drama City. Most of the events are of the emotional sort, but when the violence comes, it is brutal. I love the twist at the end with Nigel and Lorenzo.
Most of Pelecanos' books have a cinematic feel but Drama City felt the most like a movie to me so far. Like something that would probably be nominated but not win an Academy Award.
As with all Pelecanos books, there are a lot of music references and a fair amount of car talk. Derek Strange and his dog make an uncredited cameo appearance early on. Well, Greco is named but not Strange. One thing I noticed is that Pelecanos doesn't often point out skin color to describe characters so you might not realize someone is or isn't white right away.
Like I said earlier, Drama City feels like a throwback to the DC Quartet to me. Four out of five stars.
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