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What It Was (Paperback)

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And a brief bit about the new George Pelecanos. What it Was is a thin book for Pelecanos (I honestly don’t know if it is accurate to call it a novella or just a short novel at 246 pages – if it matters) and is set the past. His series character, private eye Derek Strange, was a DC cop in his 20s and this book goes back to the early 70s, just after he’s left the force to go private. It’s the story of “Red Fury” Jones, a thug who blazed out in a haze of gunsmoke and violence in the days before Watergate and 8-tracks. Strange is hired to find a missing ring and gets caught up in the police search for the increasingly bloody Jones. The ring is a real McGuffin, traveling around from one bad guy to the next.

The book is full of hot tunes on the AM, flashy cars and the fashion of the day described in the street patois of the era. People don’t walk on heels, they’re on stacks, they’re trousers are belled and the ‘fros are tall. And, as usual, as masters such as Hammett or Block did before him, George sets the scene with an economy of words that let you see the people and the action. “Another one,” said Williams to the bartender, a man named Gerard who had wide shoulders and a mustasche so thin it was barely holding on to his face.” If you like your books fast and dark, full of black humor with writing and action that punch, pick up Pelecanos. This would be a good start to his work as it goes back in time to when his characters were younger.

— JB


Washington, D.C., 1972. Derek Strange has left the police department and set up shop as a private investigator. His former partner, Frank "Hound Dog" Vaughn, is still on the force. When a young woman comes to Strange asking for his help recovering a cheap ring she claims has sentimental value, the case leads him onto Vaughn's turf, where a local drug addict's been murdered, shot point-blank in his apartment. Soon both men are on the trail of a ruthless killer: Red Fury, so called for his looks and the car his girlfriend drives, but a name that fits his personality all too well. Red Fury doesn't have a retirement plan, as Vaughn points out - he doesn't care who he has to cross, or kill, to get what he wants. As the violence escalates and the stakes get higher, Strange and Vaughn know the only way to catch their man is to do it their own way.

Rich with details of place and time - the cars, the music, the clothes - and fueled by non-stop action, this is Pelecanos writing in the hard-boiled noir style that won him his earliest fans and placed him firmly in the ranks of the top crime writers in America.

About the Author

George Pelecanos is the author of several highly praised and bestselling novels, including "The Cut," "What It Was," "The Way Home," "The Turnaround," and "The Night Gardener." He is also an independent-film producer, an essayist, and the recipient of numerous international writing awards. He was a producer and Emmy-nominated writer for "The Wire" and currently writes for the acclaimed HBO series "Treme." He lives in Maryland.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780316209540
ISBN-10: 0316209546
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: January 23rd, 2012
Pages: 246
Language: English