Hard Revolution: A Novel Audio Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook
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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.
*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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Hard Revolution, set in the late 50s, then the late 60s around Pelecanos' neck of the woods, Washington DC, seamlessly fuses a tale of social issues, day to day life of the working class, and hard crime. It does this by focusing on, as noted, the characters. Pelecanos does this a whole lot better than a slew of other writers working today. It's the characters that drive the situations they're in--whether they create the situations, or are forced into them, or stumble upon them.
Derek and Dennis Strange, brothers, are anything but two peas in a pod. The sons of a solid black working class couple, they live their lives the way they see fit. Dennis drifts--by the time the main action gets underway--1968--he's a VietNam vet and is directionless. This prompts him to move in drug circles, with those a lot nastier and more violent than he is. After getting caught by the proprietor of the store he tried to steal from when a kid, Derek gets his life straight and becomes one of the first black cops on the DC force.
No Pelecanos novel would exist without Greek characters and they're here too. But more than that are three lowlife white guys (Buzz and Dominic are two of the names, instantly giving you a sense of the time) whose actions ignite the black-white tension that forms the crux of the novel.Read more ›
Pelecanos is often categorized as merely a "crime" writer, but let's give him more credit than that. Who else is writing with such clear-eyed intensity about the difficulty that black and white have understanding each other? This theme is explored further in RIGHT AS RAIN and the other Derek Strange novels. Derek's father works under a white boss at a diner...the two men have a long relationship but are still awkward with each other. Derek finds that his white partner, despite his liberalism, doesn't really understand the experience of being a young black man.
Derek commits a violent act in HARD REVOLUTION, during the climactic riots after the Martin Luther King assassination. This act, which resonates in the earlier Strange novels, prompts him to find a more meaningful way to be a part of his community and really changes his entire life. Pelecanos has come to own DC the way Connelly and Crais owns LA and Parker owns Boston....Highly recommended, but try RIGHT AS RAIN first.
Most recent customer reviews
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
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. Read morePublished on June 4 2004 by Brenda
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
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