Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Release Date: March 2004
ISBN: 0316608971
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
Buy it at Amazon
Genre: Literary Contemporary
Reviewer: Lawrence Greenberg
Reviewer Notes: Violence, profanity

Hard Revolution
Derek Strange Series, No 4
By George Pelecanos

      George Pelecanos has an established reputation as a writer of contemporary hardboiled fiction, tempered with a gritty realism. His first few novels focused on PI Nick Stefanos, but right around the same time, he wrote The Big Blowdown, which foreshadowed things to come-a novel that effortlessly fused crime and the tough, day-to-day struggles of life among the working class. Now in Hard Revolution, he's added another element-social issues.

     Hard Revolution is set, as is all his work, in Washington, DC, but here the year is 1968. The focus is black-white relations. Though several of the white characters are Greek, as is also true of most of his work, a critical figure is not-Frank Vaughn, a cop. Vaughn plays a major part in the story; he's eventually connected to Derek Strange, a black youth who becomes a cop. Alethea, Derek's mother, works for Frank and his wife Olga as a domestic, and Derek has cause, later, to work with Frank on a case. Derek's brother Dennis drifts into another way of life, completely different from Derek's-fueled by his participation in the Viet Nam war, returning vet Dennis is psychologically removed from life and, directionless, lets others choose for him.

      Three lives are lost almost simultaneously-Dr. Martin Luther King is shot, a black teenager is the victim of a hit and run, and one of the main characters in the story is knifed to death. These deaths bring to a head the events that have been building with the unfolding of the story. The author's neat, punchy sentences capture the feel of the riots that ensue from King's assassination, which converge with the climaxing events based on the other two deaths.

    One of Pelecanos' trademarks is here in abundance-he loves to cite the songs of the day to give his tale the atmosphere of the time. While this is initially effective, the constant reference to the artists and their tunes becomes somewhat wearisome after a while. But this is, admittedly, a minor quibble. Hard Revolution is a powerful novel that gives the reader an intelligent thriller and a significant novel of the times.

Reviews of other titles in this series.

Hell to Pay, No 2 [Book]
Soul Circus, No 3 [Book]
Hard Revolution, No 4 [Audio] [Book]

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