The Sweet Forever
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George P. Pelecanos's latest book is not only a tremendously detailed and emotionally powerful crime novel but also a virtual compendium and update of his other excellent novels that are all similarly rooted in the nonpolitical neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. Brought back for major roles are Marcus Clay, Dimitri Karras, and other important players from King Suckerman. There are poignant cameos by Randolph of Shoedog as well as the two Nick Stefanos--grandfather and grandson--from The Big Blowdown, A Firing Offense, Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go, and Nick's Trip. As always, Pelecanos uses jabs of pop music, basketball, clothes, and cars to quickly root us in time and place.
It's 1986, 10 years after the Bicentennial events of King Suckerman, so a woman in her 30s wears a Susanna Hoffs-style haircut "from the cover of the 'All Over the Place' album, not the redone look off the new LP." Dimitri, after a brief career as a teacher, is now working full-time for his friend Marcus's expanded chain of four Real Right record stores; he drives a BMW 325 and wears his graying hair moussed and spiked. (He also snorts more cocaine than Al Pacino did in Scarface, one of several films used as icons here.) The doomed basketball star Len Bias--just finishing his college career and about to sign a huge deal with the Boston Celtics--is on TV screens everywhere, admired equally by the former local hoops hero Clay and a conflicted cop named Kevin Murphy who has misplaced his moral compass. The complicated, satisfying plot involves $25,000 stolen from a drug dealer; several children in peril; smart adults who screw up their lives in dumb ways; and the speed with which violence festers and explodes in unexpected directions. --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Pelecanos (King Suckerman) lays a fair claim to be the Zola of Washington, D.C. The latest of his thrillers, which use a recurring cast of ordinary Washingtonians to chronicle the city's decline since WWII, brings us to 1986, when Vietnam vet Marcus Clay, founder of ("African American Owned and Operated") Real Right Records, and his employee and best friend, aging Greek-American cokehead Dmitri Karras, witness a grisly car accident outside Clay's newest record shop on the struggling U Street strip. A suburbanite, in town to score blow from Karras, steals $25,000 in drug money from the car and inadvertently starts a race between local hoods and dirty cops?to get the money back and avenge the theft?that jeopardizes the neighborhood's fragile peace. As always, the intertwined fates of black and white Washington inform the fates of Pelecanos's individual characters, and if he cooks up saccharine subplots for his protagonists, the city's large and small tragedies?its crack epidemic, the overdose of local hero Len Bias, the disgrace of home rule, the withering of D.C.'s last independent music scenes, the ugly segregation of the place?cut the sweetness and haunt the compelling main plot from beginning to end. With characters for whom the White House is just a tourist attraction, Pelecanos is that rare bird among Washington novelists, a writer who loves and knows the city he writes about.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
But the book isn't perfect. Without trying to explain its somewhat complex and interwoven story let me just say the ending seems to fit together just a bit too nicely. I would have liked a least one loose end, which would a been a better reflection of reality. The ending wasn't disappointing, but rather it could have been just a bit more powerful.
Bottom line: my favorite so far from Pelecanos after reading nearly of his books. Strongly recommended.
Marcus Clay, up from mean streets, is a successful record store owner. Actually four record stores. So successful, Pelecanos points out, his wife Elaine has left him.
Right there is an extraordinary subtlety. Pelecanos paints his black characters with the same confusing mish-mosh of emotional color as he does his white characters, saying, 'we are all the same, all confused, all looking for love, losing it, trying to recapture it.'
Marcus resists the encroachment of drug dealers in the location of his stores and that resistance turns not surprisingly to bloodshed.
Karras, his colorblind Greek friend, suffers the moral dilemma of his own drug habit and recognition of the consequences of his acts.
Very compelling; very noir. Highly recommensded.
The only caveat I might suggest is that you may want to read some of the earlier works to get a better grip on the personality of the characters. Kudos.
That out of the way, let me just say, Pelacanos seems to be 80% setting, 10% Characters, 10% story.
After finishing Sweet Forever, I didn't want to hear another reference to an 80's band for the next several weeks. Pelacanos seems compelled to remind the reader that it is 1986, roughly fifteen times per page. He mentions cars every now and again. He mentions political figures sometimes. But mainly, he establishes setting through music, and Basketball.
And it's silly, if you ask me.
Every one of his characters, at some point in the story - which only takes place over a couple of days - goes to some sort of music show. Music seems to be the most important thing each of the characters lives. And the College Basetball thing? Come on. It was popular, I don't deny that, but he makes it seem as though it - and Len Bias - were bigger than life. Maybe he should have made the setting 1987, and used the Redskins as a Prop. Anyway, after all was said and done, I wanted to yell at the author, "Enough! I KNOW it's 1986; I get the point, already."
The characters were OK, but I couldn't identify with any of them.
The story was TV cop show quality at best.
All in all. The novel was readable. If you're Pelacanos, and you happen to read this review: Sorry. I get the feeling yo can do much better.
In this book, a drug car smashes and bursts into flames outside Marcus Cray's Real Right record store. Someone waiting outside the record store walks over to the car and takes a pillowcase filled with money out of the burning car. When the local gang-leader, and owner of the money, finds out about the theft of his dough, he's not very happy and seeks to regain his money. Dimitri and Marcus are drawn into this fight because of their proximity to the original accident.
Once again, the mood of the book is set by the use of street talk by the characters, the description of the music they listen to, and the ongoing NCAA basketball tournament of the day. As with all Pelecanos books, the drug culture is strongly featured and appears to have gripped Dimitri pretty tightly now. This is the third of a series of four books, with the fourth title being Shame the Devil.
Most recent customer reviews
This is my first time reading a pelecanos book, not even sure why I chose to read it. I have to admit, that I read the first 100 pages, sporadically over a week. Read morePublished on April 24 2004 by Sean
The Sweet Forever is a well done and engrossing crime novel. Pelecanos' story shifts from the Washington DC gang members to the corrupt cops to honest people just trying to get by... Read morePublished on Jan. 14 2003 by Elizabeth Hendry
This is a flat out terrific book. Pelecanos weaves an intriguing story about a search for some stolen drug money, a battle for control of a neighborhood and a number of characters... Read morePublished on July 13 2002 by brazos49
Just finshed Sweet Forever and it blew me away. This is not only the best crime fiction book I have ever read, but it is one of the best books period. Read morePublished on July 19 2001 by Mark Davis
"The Sweet Forever" is the first George P. Pelecanos book that I've read, but it won't be the last. Read morePublished on April 24 2001
Quite simply put this is the best novel I have read. I liked King Suckerman, but this book just blows it away. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2000 by Tyler Durdan
I think Pelecanos is much, much more interested in his characters than the average suspense writer, and he knows that adulthood changes in point-of-view and lifestyle are much more... Read morePublished on Oct. 16 2000 by M.H.
Set in Washington DC in the last 1980s, this is a very well done cops and robbers genre detective novel - but then it is much more. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2000 by R. Peterson
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