Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: "Hard Revolution" by George Pelecanos

Hard Revolution by George Pelecanos is another explosive novel from a very underrated writer who has yet to disappoint me. While I would probably put Dennis Lehane on the top of the list of America’s hidden literary treasures, Pelecanos is not that far away. Even more so since none of his books, to my knowledge have been adapted into a major movie, which is absurd once you read one. They practically thrive of good plots and character, and dialogue finds a balance between Lehane’s profundity and Price’s almost comical stretching of the English language, making it seem realistic and ripe for screen adaptation. Especially this novel, which relies even more on the story’s urgency than say, The Turnaround. It does deal with a historical event, in this case the assassination of Martin Luther King, that vaguely reflects the actions taking place, but the action is at the forefront of this novel, and it is the most important and memorable thing that the reader will take away from this novel. The feeling I get with this novel is very similar to the one I got reading Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone. Each is part of a series by a writer whose other books I have read have been stand alone novels, with Lehane’s novel being part of the Kenzie-Gennaro PI novels, and Hard Revolution being a prequel to Pelecanos’ Derek Strange novels. You can tell that the writers for each one is pulling back on the heavy handed social commentary, at least consciously, to tell a gritty, shocking story. We begin our story in the late 50’s in Washington D. C. as we are introduced to the three story arcs that will develop over the course of the novel. A young Derek Strange has a run-in with the law, thanks to his friend Dominic, that leads him down the road to becoming a cop, which, him being black is not looked upon as a dignified job by his community. His brother Dennis, preaches “black power, but is falling in with a duo lead by Alvin Jones, whose psychopathic streak is destined to lead Dennis down a dark path. And Buzz Stewart, an outwardly racist (yet a closet fan of R & B) gas station attendant is waiting for an opportunity that will never come. Ten years after we first meet this cast of characters, in 1968, the country’s race relations are to the point that violence and bloodshed is just around the corner. Derek is a cop, Dennis is still hanging with Alvin Jones, and Buzz finally has a plan to get ahead, along with his friend Dominic. After a prank ends in a disturbing death, and someone is killed in a senseless, brutal murder, the tides of history begin to mirror the anger and hatred brewing in this novel. Much like Gone Baby Gone, this is a more disturbing novel than anything else the writer has written outside of a series. Even the child murder in The Night Gardener doesn’t compare to inner thoughts of the selfish killer in Alvin Jones. Also, the redemption comes at a great price to our hero, with him left rethinking his choices and the life that lies ahead of him. I feel odd reading a book that is fourth in a series because I don’t want to miss anything, but luckily, with Gone Baby Gone and Hard Revolution, they offer a singular intense experience in the crime genre, and I can’t wait to read more about Derek Strange:
Rating: 5/5

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