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The Sweet Forever by George P. Pelecanos

The Sweet Forever (1998)

by George P. Pelecanos

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It feels odd to review a novel 13 years after its publication, but as I'm working my way through George Pelecanos' extensive catalog, I guess it's bound to happen. This is yet another example of his ability to take an incident that is just a part of life in a major city, a traffic accident, and create a masterful story about what really happened and its repercussions.

I won't go into the plot, which I'm sure you can glean from the product description on this site. What I like to do when I review is to compare a book to the mental checklist I have on what I like in the particular genre. I also like to determine if there's anything distinctive that makes it stand out or reminds me of other authors or novels.

The coolest thing The Sweet Forever has going for it is that it's like opening a time capsule of the mid-1980's. The author does a great job evoking the music, clothing, hairstyles, drug use, etc. from that era. As with his other novels, Pelecanos uses his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music to great effect, and it truly produces an aural soundtrack for the story line. He incorporates music heavily into most (all? don't know, haven't finished the lot) of his books, but this time it seems a little different just because of the '80s time slice for the story.

The story is believable and the characters react in predictably unpredictable ways. The dialogue is crisp and life-like, which is one of the author's great strengths. In a lot of ways he reminds me of another favorite, Elmore Leonard- he really 'owns' the genre in a city (Leonard in Detroit, GP in DC), he writes great dialogue, his stories aren't about FBI mastermind crime solvers going after criminal masterminds but more about 'blue collar' lower-level street criminals. I think the thing I like best about him is that he creates characters that are really in the 'grey area'.... the good guys aren't really all that good, the bad guys have some redeeming qualities (at least some of them), the cops have seemingly the same good-to-evil continuum, and there's a number of side characters that contribute color and depth.

This is another Pelecanos gem that I can't recommend highly enough. ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
too much basketball. too much music. sad to think that marcus's business is probably gone now. too big to survive. i hope he sold it.
good. satisfying story. ( )
  mahallett | Dec 5, 2011 |
The second in this series of hard-boiled novels set in 1980s Washington D.C. ( )
  zenosbooks | Feb 26, 2009 |
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The first time Richard Tutt made it with a suspect's girlfriend, he realized that there was nothing, nothing at all, that a man in his position couldn't do.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316691097, Hardcover)

George P. Pelecanos's latest book is not only a tremendously detailed and emotionally powerful crime novel but also a virtual compendium and update of his other excellent novels that are all similarly rooted in the nonpolitical neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. Brought back for major roles are Marcus Clay, Dimitri Karras, and other important players from King Suckerman. There are poignant cameos by Randolph of Shoedog as well as the two Nick Stefanos--grandfather and grandson--from The Big Blowdown, A Firing Offense, Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go, and Nick's Trip. As always, Pelecanos uses jabs of pop music, basketball, clothes, and cars to quickly root us in time and place.

It's 1986, 10 years after the Bicentennial events of King Suckerman, so a woman in her 30s wears a Susanna Hoffs-style haircut "from the cover of the 'All Over the Place' album, not the redone look off the new LP." Dimitri, after a brief career as a teacher, is now working full-time for his friend Marcus's expanded chain of four Real Right record stores; he drives a BMW 325 and wears his graying hair moussed and spiked. (He also snorts more cocaine than Al Pacino did in Scarface, one of several films used as icons here.) The doomed basketball star Len Bias--just finishing his college career and about to sign a huge deal with the Boston Celtics--is on TV screens everywhere, admired equally by the former local hoops hero Clay and a conflicted cop named Kevin Murphy who has misplaced his moral compass. The complicated, satisfying plot involves $25,000 stolen from a drug dealer; several children in peril; smart adults who screw up their lives in dumb ways; and the speed with which violence festers and explodes in unexpected directions. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:59 -0400)

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A drug war breaks out in Washington involving gangs and crooked policemen. The action is seen through the eyes of Marcus Clay and Dimitri Karras, owners of a record store in the black ghetto.

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