King Suckerman
By George P. Pelecanos

Little Brown, 1997, ( $22.95)

Reviewed by Anthony Smith

This novel is one of the best I've read in the crime field in a long time. Pelecanos is amazingly talented, writing some important work, reflecting society as well as giving us an entertaining hard-boiled seventies flashback.

The background in King Suckerman is Washington D.C. during the '76 Bicentennial celebrations. The lead characters are Dimitri Karras and Marcus Clay, good friends forced into making some hard choices after problems during a drug buy. The bad guy here, Wilton Cooper, is a perfect picture of chaos. Pelecanos always puts the development of his characters before the plot, which is what I would like to see more crime writers do. It makes a whole lot of difference in the way the story unfolds, as well as in the emotional involvement of the reader in these characters' lives.

This novel continues in the vein of another fine Pelecanos novel, The Big Blowdown, by building on local history, creating a cast of characters, and walking through time with each book, closer to the present he wrote about in the earlier Nick Stefanos detective novels. They were very good, but The Big Blowdown and King Suckerman are even better. As for the seventies atmosphere, Pelecanos nails it perfectly: Style, music, Black action films, language. All around, this novel works at the highest levels. Whole heartedly recommended.


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