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The New Pantheon

George Pelecanos

If you've only seen The Wire, good on you. But you're only getting part of the story.

Photo of George Pelecanos by Robert Birnbaum (Photo by Robert Birnbaum) One of the dependable touchstones of publishing is that every few years that rickety engine will cough out a book by maestro George Pelecanos (and a few others). Funnily enough, Pelecanos, author of 17 novels and editor of a super crime story collection (The Best American Mystery Stories 2008) is now best known for as a member of the creative team responsible for that nonpareil television epic, The Wire. His new tome The Way Home (Little, Brown) bears this tagline: “by the award-winning writer/producer of The Wire.” The sense of this escapes me, as I think readers will venture into the film terrain but viewers are less likely to pick up books.

That aside, such is the pleasure I derive from George’s storytelling skills that the arrival of his newest novel requires me to set aside whatever I am reading and/or doing in order to delve into the book—which I can report is an intriguing and vivid story of family dysfunction and rebirth sans any trace of didacticism. Teenager Chris Flynn, son of Thomas (a hard-working flooring salesman who has put himself safely into middle-class life), has a short history of antisocial behavior that culminates in his incarceration at the local juvenile detention center, Pine Ridge (which with the accidental irony of prison names has no pine trees in sight). Thomas and Chris’s mother cannot figure out how their son took this turn, and as the plot unfolds we are given some entrancing snapshots of the flashpoints and family history that can form personality. If you pick up this book, I would say there is a good chance you will work your way back through the Pelecanos bibliography. You will not regret it.
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