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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.
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*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.
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... Read morePublished on June 17 2004 by Booked4Life
Probably not another novel anywhere that features Link Wray and the Raymen playing bars in Washington, D.C. in 1959...Published on April 28 2004
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... Read morePublished on April 21 2004 by Jenny Blickman
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. Read morePublished on April 12 2004 by J. G. Cohen
In HARD REVOLUTION, George Pelecanos takes Derek Strange (hero of his three previous books) back in time to age 13, and then up through his early 20s to 1968. Read morePublished on March 26 2004 by Simon Crowe
I read "Right as Rain" two years ago, then read "Hell to Pay" and went on to "Soul Circus. Read morePublished on March 23 2004 by Larry Scantlebury
With the publication of his latest book HARD REVOLUTION, George Pelecanos has written an even dozen novels. Read morePublished on March 19 2004 by Bookreporter
George Pelcanos is flat out the best mystery writer working today and one of the best writers period. Read morePublished on March 15 2004 by John J. Lewis