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The Big Blowdown [Paperback]

George Pelecanos
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 24 1999
For Joey Recevo and Pete Karras, two kids from one of Washington's rougher neighborhoods, the easiest work to find after the War is all criminal---providing a little muscle for a local boss. But Karris is soft on his fellow immigrants, and the boss can't let his mob get soft, so one of his boys gives Karras a painful lesson.

Three years later, it's the same mob that figures big Nick Stefanos's grill needs protection---and this decision will once again bring Joey and Pete face-to-face. In this final confrontation, the two of them will find the meaning of friendship, the heart of honor, and the cost of both.

Powerfully told, elegantly wrought, The Big Blowdown is a knockout.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

After several well-received Nick Stefanos crime novels, (A Firing Offense; Nick's Trip; Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go), Pelecanos goes for broke with a gangster epic that chronicles 25 turbulent years of immigrant life in post-WWII Washington, D.C. He rises above the in-built predictability of the material to unleash a charged page-turner liberally doused with sex, death and irony. Pete Karras might be a confirmed skirt-chaser, but he's way too soft on the guys he's being paid to shake down. As a penalty for shirking his duty, he gets his legs broken and ends up limping through the streets he loves, working the counter of a diner owned by Nick Stefanos (the father, presumably, of the Nick who stars in Pelecanos's earlier books). When a kid shows up looking for a lost sister who's addicted to heroin and whoring to support her habit, Pete finds himself a cause. Whores, especially well-stacked ones, are being slit open in the city, and Karras's childhood pal, Jimmy Boyle, now a beat cop, is anxious for a collar. Joey Recevo, who grew up on the streets with Karras and Boyle, is still a shakedown artist, and now his next target is Nick's place. There isn't much in the plot that truthfully surprises, but the tale of these three friends and how their loyalties are tested is feverishly alive. Pelecanos lovingly recreates old Washington with small details about soft-drink brands, finned cars and cherished smokes. The ending is a haze of gunsmoke that drifts away to leave a mixed tableau of heroism and futility. With stylistic panache and forceful conviction, Pelecanos delivers a darkly powerful story of the American city.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Set in Washington, D.C., from the 1930s to the 1950s, Pelecanos's (Shoedog, St. Martin's, 1994) latest novel traces a group of boyhood friends as they make their way in the richly detailed Greek and Italian neighborhoods of the city. Peter Karras, a Greek, and his friend Joe Recevo, an Italian, grow up together, serve separately in World War II, and reunite for a time after the war as Joe becomes involved in organized crime in the city. Peter cannot stomach the practice of shaking down immigrants for loan vigorish and is brutally cast out by the gangsters, as Joe stands by. The two friends will inevitably cross paths again. Pelecanos's plotting is superb, as is his use of dialog and sense of place. Innumerable details that are brought in to the story turn out to be essential plot elements further down the line, so that the entire book seems to have been conceived as a unified thought. A fine achievement; recommended for all fiction collections.?David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Washington In the 40s July 5 2001
We follow the fortunes of Peter Karras, a Greek American living in Washington DC, before, during and after World War II. After coming out of the war a hero, Karras, along with his childhood friend Joe Recevo, finds himself drifting along, occasionally providing muscle for the Mafia in their protection rackets. When Karras makes the mistake of showing leniency towards one of his boss's "clients", it's inevitable that he has to be taught a (painful) lesson. The story is ultimately a commentary on how the two friends deal with the different directions their lives have taken, particularly when their paths cross again.
The mood of the time and place are captured with remarkable vividness. Even the street noises are described in such a way that it almost feels as if we are there watching the drama unfold in front of us. I feel this is the defining novel for George Pelecanos and a must read for Pelecanos fans. I can't recommend it highly enough without appearing to gush, so I'll just say that it's a fantastic piece of American literature that manages to capture the 40's very nicely.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very satisfying period piece April 4 2000
Fans of George Pelecanos will not be disappointed in this excellent novel. Set in D.C. during the years just before and after WWII, his familiar cast of characters inhabit a world of hope and violence that somehow seems appropriate to the American Dream. The plot is engaging and believable, the action is fast paced, and the character portrayals are as satisfying as a reader could want. This is a great story of friendship, betrayal and flawed redemption. Much more than just a 'crime novel' (and this is true of his other books as well) The Big Blowdown evokes a time when everthing seemed possible, from great success to 'the Big Blowdown' (atomic annihilation) and tells the story a few immigrant kids whose future turns out to be quite different from any they would have imagined.
Reading a Pelecanos book always leaves me feeling as though I had touched a piece of real life. This book has the added appeal of touching a real piece of time gone by as well. Very satisfying. I highly recommend it.
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Pelecanos continues to amaze me. The thing that particularly struck me about this book was the way he is able to transfer his scene writing skills to an earlier era. He's just as effective in putting the reader in a scene in the 1940's as he is in writing more modern material. Other than that, this book is just what I've come to expect from this author: great character development with complex personalities, gritty people and places, a twisting, hard story that truly holds your interest, etc.
I particularly liked the way the author worked World War II service into the lives of these characters, along with the fear of the big bomb being dropped on Washington, D.C. Also, as usual, the good guys are not even close to being all good and not everything turns out OK in the end.
Let me just sum up my thoughts on this book and this writer like this: If you think you like crime fiction and you're not reading everything Pelecanos has written, it's your loss.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Book that Touches You to the Core. Jan. 15 2003
This is the fourth Pelecanos book I have read and I have to say I was blown away. No pun intended with regard to the title of the book.
Pete Karras has to be one of the most complete and flawed characters I have read in a long time. His constant struggle in life (from surviving the battle in Leyte to surviving the beating he received from members of organized crime) makes him all that more appealing. He is always searching for the meaning of his life.
This book just reaches out and hits in the gut. Pelecanos really does transport you back to the 40s. I felt like I was there as much as when I read Chandler.
Couldn't put this one down. A must read. I enjoyed this one more than Right as Rain and Hell to Pay combined. And both of those books were excellent also.
I'll have to rent an old John Hodiak movie to see what he looks like since Pete favors Hodiak.
Thanks for a great read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars hoodlums and druggies of 1940s Washington.. March 18 2003
By lazza
George Pelecanos must really love or hate his home town of Washington. He always seems to write about it, but what he writes about won't appear in any Chamber of Commerce brochure. Druggies, organized crime, and ethnic violence seemingly permeate the lives of all Washingtonians.
"The Big Blowdown" departs from the author's other works in that much of it reads as a biopic. We are given a "Reader's Digest" biography of a young Greek-American man raised in 1930s/1940s Washington. While it is all not uninteresting even fans of the author will find it to be a prosaic. Fortunately halfway through the book all the characters from this man's childhood come together for a very violent, and well-written, conclusion. The author deftly tackles subjects like loyalty and personal ethics along the way.
Bottom line: despite its slow start this book ultimately comes together with "oomph". Recommended.
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