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Hard Revolution: A Novel [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

George Pelecanos , Lance Reddick
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 2004
With HARD REVOLUTION, George Pelecanos delivers the knockout punch his admirers have long awaited. Here is the rich, dramatic, and totally engrossing story of two brothersone a rookie police officer, the other a recently returned Vietnam veteranwho come to blows in the year 1968, when DC exploded into chaos and violence. HARD REVOLUTION tells for the first time how Derek Strange first became a police officer, and what drove him to leave the force and become a private investigator. Filled with the rich details of time, place, music, and local color that are Pelecanos's trademark, and with unerring insight into the morality of daily life, HARD REVOLUTION is a gripping, modern Cane and Abel tale set against the backdrop of a nation at war with itself.

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From Publishers Weekly

The author's admirers are familiar with middle-aged black PI Derek Strange, featured in several novels (Soul Circus, etc.) so strong that one critic has dubbed Pelecanos the Zola of contemporary crime fiction. This memorable tale is a prequel to those novels, set in Washington, D.C., mostly just before and during the 1968 riots sparked by the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. The first few chapters, though, unfold in 1959, introducing major characters whose paths will entwine later: Derek-who's nabbed for shoplifting but given a break that will set his life on a (more or less) law-abiding pat-hand his older brother, Dennis; their hardworking parents; and some ancillary figures. By 1968, Derek is a young cop partnered with a white guy; Dennis is a pot-smoking slacker; and many of their acquaintances from '59 are working dead-end jobs with an eye toward crime. The ensuing narrative swirls around two scenarios: a plan by Dennis and two street-thug pals to rob a local Greek-owned store (Pelecanos wrote extensively about D.C.'s Greek community in early novels, and many of the nonblack characters here are Greek-American) and a plot by three young white hoods to rob a bank, but only after they drunkenly kill a young black man for sport. The action is fueled by the heat of race relations, which Pelecanos explores with acuity-particularly in his portrayal of Derek, who as a black cop is considered an enemy by many other blacks. Written in rich, observant prose, the novel is a brilliant study of a society tearing apart as racial tensions escalate after the King killing; no wonder some observers have pointed to Pelecanos as the kind of thriller writer who should be nominated for a National Book Award.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Pelecanos has been justly celebrated for his noir sensibility and his gritty portraits of the streets of Washington, D.C., but he hasn't been recognized for what may be his greatest achievement: redefining the art of writing serial fiction. Crime fiction series often grow stale as authors are forced to repeat themselves ad infinitum. Pelecanos has avoided that trap by creating an ensemble of characters, all of whom live in Washington, and jumping between them from novel to novel. Even better, he goes back and forth in time, not with plot-driven prequels but in a way that builds context both in terms of character development and sense of place. Just as The Big Blowdown (1996) gave that kind of depth and context to the earlier Nick Stefanos novels, so Pelecanos' latest looks back at the early life of Derek Strange, hero of four previous books, including Soul Circus (2002). The action, which takes place in the weeks previous to and the days immediately after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., centers on two groups of petty criminals and their ill-formed plans to hold up a convenience store and a bank. As in earlier books, Pelecanos devotes the foreground to these train wrecks waiting to happen, while focusing our attention on the people destined to cross the railroad tracks at the wrong time: doomed criminals, equally doomed cops, soul-suffering mothers and fathers. And this time there is the finale, an even larger train wreck, the riots in Washington's inner city following the King assassination. As Strange, a proud black man and a good cop, is forced to work riot control in his own neighborhood, all of the unresolvable conflicts--personal, racial, historical, political--that have roiled in the background of this novel are ignited in front of our eyes. Like Nathanael West describing the burning of Hollywood in The Day of the Locust, Pelecanos stage manages the conflagration perfectly, capturing the personal tragedy and the metaphorical significance vividly and directly. All of Pelecanos' books, whether set before or after King's death, somehow have been pointing to this moment, and he makes the most of it. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange, The Early Years June 22 2004
Format:Hardcover
HARD REVOLUTION is another stunning book by Pelecanos, taking us back to the turbulent year of 1968, after first making a brief stop in 1959. Pelecanos is an acquired taste because when he tells his story he holds nothing back no matter how distasteful the acts may be. Modern hardboiled at it's nastiest but brilliant in capturing the mood of the people and the time.
Before HARD REVOLUTION came the Derek Strange trilogy of RIGHT AS RAIN, HELL TO PAY and SOUL CIRCUS. Set in present day Washington D.C., they featured the black private detective struggling to earn a buck while making every effort to ensure the children from his neighbourhood had a chance to make something of themselves rather than being drawn into the gang lifestyle. Now we are taken back in time, first to 1959 and then to 1968 to meet the young Derek Strange.
Unrest simmers close to the surface as everyone senses that there is a social change in the air. This part of the story is paced by constant updates about the approaching rally in Memphis that Martin Luther King JR is due to speak at. So apart from the fictional tension built up by the actions of Pelecanos' characters, there is also the added tension that comes from knowing the true events that about to take place.

This is not what I would term your usual crime novel because there is no clear single plot. Rather, it travels along many paths and gives an insightful commentary about social unrest in a tumultuous period of modern history. Murders take place, murders are solved, but they are more or less incidental to the story which is more a focus on the characters and the period of time in which they lived. It's a powerful book that deals with sensitive issues in a hard-nosed way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Back to the 60's with Derek Strange June 17 2004
Format:Hardcover
Much as "The Big Blowdown" took us back into the past of another set of Pelecanos' characters, "Hard Revolution" introduces us to the Sixties in the company of Derek Strange. Though not as searing as some of the DC-based crime novels in his body of work so far, "Hard Revolution" is a strong novel you won't want to miss--especially if you've read the other Derek Strange novels.
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4.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY FIRST, MYSTERY SECOND. June 4 2004
By Brenda
Format:Audio CD
A store owner gives a young thief a reprieve. Years later, police officer Dereck Strange remembers how that reprieve shaped his life. His brother, Dennis, isn't so lucky. As a young man, he suffered from the weight of drug addition and hatred against white America. Years later, Dereck is working on the side of the law, while his brother joins up with a drug pusher. Dereck ends up investigating a case involving his brother, and this time it's the ultimate test of self-control.
Frank Vaughn is an older cop investigating the hit and run of a young black boy. Vaughn and Dereck's paths eventually cross, and the two end up just a blink away from crossing a line that can't be erased. During this intense time, riots take hold of Washington at the news of Martin Luther King's assassination. The rioting backdrop is powerful.
In _Hard Revolution_, vivid scenes of history intertwine with Pelecanos' story of drugs and murder. The dialogue is emotionally strong - sometimes disturbingly so - giving it the characteristics of a hard-boiled mystery. However, the story as a whole reads like historical literature. Introductions and explanations are drawn out, the police cases are slow in evolving, and at times, the rioting backdrop overwhelms the main characters' stories.
Actor Lane Reddick narrates _Hard Revolution_ solo. His voice effectively carries the intensity of the storyline.
Brenda @ MyShelf.Com
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Music... April 28 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Probably not another novel anywhere that features Link Wray and the Raymen playing bars in Washington, D.C. in 1959...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good place to start April 21 2004
Format:Hardcover
If you are new to Pelecanos books, 'Hard Revolution' is a perfect place to start. Series hero Derek Strange gets more depth, and characterization in this 'prequel to the three earlier volumes in this series. Pelecanos transcends the mystery/thriller genre with each succeeding outing. The writing is masterful, as good as the best American writers working today in any genre. This should come with a warning label: 'May cause loss of sleep because it is impossible to put down.'
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4.0 out of 5 stars Semi hard revolution April 12 2004
Format:Hardcover
First let me say I eagerly awaited this "prequel" and had been a little disappointed with the earlier Soul Circus. I 've read Hell to Pay & Right as Rain. The early part of the current novel which features the key characters in their youth is fine and yes I thought of Richard Price's work covering the Bronx of my youth.
Ultimately I'm a little disappointed with the tale, the last remarks about Frank Vaughn and the selective morality and plain old believability.
It will be interesting to see if GP takes one last shot with Derek. I'll bet yes.
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Format:Hardcover
I'm a huge Pelecanos fan and this book further solidifies my admiration for this exceptional writer. I can't imagine that any reader who enjoys crime fiction wouldn't love this book. It brings two major components that make it so outstanding - a well spun crime story and a context of historical significance.
The crime story involves the prequel for one of Pelecanos' main characters in some of his earlier work, Derek Strange, and lets us know how he came to be the private detective he is in those books. In this story, Derek is a pioneering young black police officer in Washington, D.C. in 1968 before and after Martin Luther King's killing and the subsequent civil unrest. He winds up working two big cases with a veteran detective, one involving Derek's brother. He works the other case also with his young white partner.
There are many racial currents in this book and, in my opinion, the author handles these very well and completely without any phoniness. There are good and bad black guys, white guys, Greeks, Jews, etc. The story lines are intriguing and the word pictures the author paints put the reader right in the scene.
I'd rate this book right up with The Big Blowdown as one of Pelecanos' best efforts (A Firing Offense is my favorite). Both of these fine books have an earlier historical setting that he uses to great advantage. So, I'd say if you haven't read any of Pelecanos' work, this book would be a fine place to start. And, I'll bet that if you start, you'll enjoy much more of his work.
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