Thursday, August 03, 2006

Gun control

Someone should put copies of George Pelecanos's last few novels in fancy gift baskets and deliver one to each member of Congress and we would have a good gun control law about one week later. Just finished reading his latest, The Night Gardener (courtesy of the divine Sarah). It's excellent. (Also I must say it has the most over-the-top blurbs I think I have ever seen, it's pretty funny: they're by two authors I love, Ken Bruen and Laura Lippman, and it's not that I disagree with what they say, I think they're both quite right about the excellence of Pelecanos, but I hope this doesn't represent a new trend in blurbing, these swathes of hyperbole in the grand style just make me want to laugh. Go and look at a copy and you'll see what I mean; oh, and buy the book!)

Random paragraph I liked (Gus Ramone and Rhonda Willis are both homicide detectives, and here Ramone's visiting the Metropolitan Police Academy):

The academy looked like any high school, with standard-sized classrooms on the upper floors and a gymnasium, swimming pool, and extensive workout facilities below. Veteran police, including Ramone, used the weight room and pool to stay in shape. Rhonda's vanity had shrunk with the birth of each successive child, and she had not exercised in many years. If she managed to put together a half hour of free time, Rhonda felt that a hot bath and a glass of wine were more valuable to her physical and mental health than a visit to the gym could ever be.

Pelecanos has this excellent style that's so understated as to be almost invisible, but if you're really paying attention you know you're reading something far more carefully crafted than most novels. I like the way he handles a large cast of characters, and of course the DC/Maryland settings (and the world of objects--clothes, cars, condiments--and the sounds and rhythms of the different kinds of speech you hear in different contexts and the always-present sense of a high-quality musical soundtrack) are the books' greatest selling points.

I have a ridiculous confession, though: I put the book down to read Edward P. Jones's story in the latest issue of the New Yorker (mmmm, good story), and then afterwards I kept on having to remind myself it hadn't been an episode in The Night Gardener! The two wove together so seamlessly, it was like something in a dream....

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