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Author of the Month

Name: George Pelecanos

First Novel:

Most Recent Book: The Way Home

'...a book about second chances, greed and redemption, but chiefly it is about a relationship between a father and son...'

Synopsis:
Thomas Flynn deposits his seventeen year old son, Chris at a juvenile prison, Pine Ridge near Washington, D.C. His heart is broken but he is resolute: he has done everything he can to give Chris the best possible start in life, but something in his son just isn't working. He had stepped in on numerous occasions to stave off the threat of the law, but now its time his son faced up to his mistakes. There is more to life than street fights, car chases and smoking pot and if it takes a stay in “juvvie” to learn this, then so be it.

Inside, Chris is quickly nicknamed “Whiteboy”; all the other boys are black and from the infamous D.C. projects. Life in Pine Ridge is tough and the threat of violence is a constant, but Chris learns to adapt and makes friends that he will take into the real world when his time is served.

Ten years later, Chris and the friends he made at Pine Ridge appear reformed. Chris himself has a job, thanks to his father, a girlfriend, and even his own apartment. But when he and the others are innocently caught up in a burglary, old habits and instincts rise to the surface, threatening this hard-won stability with treachery and even, murder. Tensions between father and son have always hovered overhead, unspoken but tangible, while their troubled relationship builds tentatively from distrust and scorn toward mutual respect and love. Until Chris's fresh troubles threaten everything they have been working towards these past years.

Is this the final straw or will Thomas do whatever he can to help his son?

Review:
On the jacket of this book, Stephen King opines that George Pelecanos is “perhaps the greatest living crime writer” and who am I to argue with the great man? Pelecanos is of course one of the team who work on The Wire and the author of 15 previous novels that chronicle life in Washington D.C.

What Pelecanos brings to his work is a great verisimilitude. He has clearly walked those mean streets and he captures the mindset, the challenges and even the verbal tics of its inhabitants with a faithfulness and clarity that is captivating, powerful and startling.

The Way Home is a book about second chances, greed and redemption, but chiefly it is about a relationship between a father and son; the former flawed but trying his very best, while the son is lost in a morass of peer pressure, easy availability of the bad stuff and the fear that he can only fail to live up to his father's expectations. This relationship is acutely observed and the fact that Pelecanos succeeds in this approach while maintaining the conventions that every mystery/ thriller fan demands is a testament to his talent.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
Its characters.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
The popularity of the genre speaks to its diversity. Certainly there’s room for all kinds of books. The pool is very deep.
3) The inner-city has proven to be a fertile backdrop for your novels. Do you see this continuing to be part of your inspiration?
It’s where I can explore the kinds of social issues I am trying to talk about. Also, I see a lot of everyday heroism in that arena. The moral stakes and the people interest me.
4) The main theme of The Way Home is the relationships between father and son and I’m sure that many men (and women) reading it will be able to relate. Do you start off with such themes in mind or do you find them by “accident” along the way?
With this one I knew from the get-go that it would be about the dynamics of fathers and sons, and the injustice of our juvenile justice system. In other books the theme was not so clear to me from the outset. What I never work out in advance is the intricacies of plot. I find what’s going to happen as I write the book.
5) The way in which you write about Washington D.C. highlights many of the tensions that its less well-off inhabitants might face and as such must set off the social conscience in your readers. Was this always your intention, or do you simply set out to write the best book you can?
My goal is to write good books. If I can help the reader look at his or her world in a different way, and perhaps inspire someone better than me to actually do something, it’s icing on the cake.
6) When you look back at your work which book are you most proud of?
Hard Revolution. I wanted to write that book a long while, but waited until I thought I had the chops. I put everything I had into it. Hopefully it will outlive me.
7) Your books have a strong filmic feel; which had the greater influence on the young George Pelecanos, movies or books?
Movies. Specifically: Westerns.
8) Raymond Chandler once wrote of crime fiction that the "mystery and the solution of the mystery are only what I call 'the olive in the Martini'". What’s your view?
If he meant that it is the last important aspect of the cocktail, then I agree. Admittedly, I’m not much of a mystery writer. I am, proudly, a crime novelist.
9) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
Sam Peckinpah directing, with Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Warren Oates, and Ann-Margaret.
10) Which is more important, great plot or great characters?
Characters.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
Point Blank. In a Lonely Place. Friends of Eddie Coyle. Bullitt. The Outfit. Kiss Me Deadly. Johnny Handsome. The Big Heat. The Getaway. The Godfather I and II. Out of the Past.

I could go on.
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
The Long Goodbye. The Last Good Kiss. Hard Rain Falling. Tapping the Source. Cutter and Bone. Gone Baby Gone. True Confessions. Swag. The Galton Case. The Empty Copper Sea. The Burglar.

Sorry. It’s like choosing the best-looking woman. There isn’t just one.