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The Big Blowdown

The Big Blowdown

Author(s): George Pelecanos

Location(s): Washington DC

Genre(s): Crime

Era(s): 1930s onwards

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In the quartet of novels about life in Washington DC of which The Big Blowdown is chronologically the first, George Pelecanos intelligently breaks down the thin barriers between the noir thriller and the character-driven novel of embattled masculinity. In the 1930s, Pete Karras and Joey Recevo are friends, backing each other up in street fights round the projects. Both go to war and come back changed: Joey is capable of buying into the criminal subculture and cutting adrift from community and Pete, almost fatally, isn’t. He ends up betrayed and crippled and, more than ever, obsessed with doing the right thing himself and making Joey do right again… The observation here of small immigrant subcultures, and different kinds of honour, and the getting of wisdom about things as disparate as a good sharp knife for cooking and killing and the purer sorts of jazz, is stunning. He knows what people are doing whether they are Greek cooks learning about African-American food or cops chasing a serial killer. Above all, though, this is a novel about flawed people making bad choices and worse ones: Pelecanos’s sense of place and period is always in the service of his subtle grasp of psychology and his passionate moral commitment. –Roz Kaveney

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Lead Review

“‘Pelecanos has enormous strengths as a crime writer. He can’t write a dull sentence, his dialogue has great rhythm, his action scenes are ferociously effective. But more than that, he has a powerful social...

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