A bold, brilliant tale of mystery, revenge, and survival in the 1980s, when cocaine and money ruled the city streets and even the good guys wanted a piece of the action.
It's March madness and the college boys are playing basketball on TV. But on the streets of D.C., the homeboys are dealing, dissing, dying. From behind plate glass, with an 80s backbeat pounding in his brain, Marcus Clay watches it all happen, and prays that he can make a go with his downtown record store. Then a car comes careening down U Street, and what Marcus sees next will plunge him into the middle of a war.
A drug runner is decapitated in the crash. A bystandera white boy desperate to buy a woman's lovesnatches a bag of cash from the wreck, and a prince of crime wants it back. For Marcus's buddy, Dimitri Karras, the mayhem is a chance to make a score. For a pair of dirty cops it's a chance to get free. And for dozens of lives swept up into the maelstrom, it's just another springtime in America's capital, where the game is played for keeps.
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.
Hometown:Silver Spring, Maryland
Date of Birth:February 18, 1957
Place of Birth:Washington, D.C.
Education:B.A., University of Maryland at College Park, 1980
Read an Excerpt
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. He'd gotten some just that morninga high-assed young thing by the name of Rowandaand the feeling had stuck with him right into this bright, biting afternoon.
Tutt made a left onto U Street, eye-swept the beat that he knew he owned.
The Power. It was a cop thing, but not an across-the-board cop thing. The desk jockeys never had it. The homicide dicks were too tortured to have it. A few of the boys in Prostitution and Perversions had it, but only some of the time. The beat cops, the ones who really knew how to walk it, had it all the time.
Tutt dug the free-fall feeling that came with the Power. He even looked forward to the looks he gotthe looks of fear and hatred and, yeah, the looks of respectwhen he stepped out of his cruiser. He'd been a cop for five years, always in blue, and always out on the street. You could keep your promotions and gold shields. Tutt liked the fit of the uniform. He knew he'd never wear anything else.
Tutt turned to his partner, Kevin Murphy, who was staring through the windshield, one thumb stroking his black mustache. Murphy's head throbbed with a dull ache; he hoped for a quiet day. He'd fallen asleep on the couch with a beer in his hand the night before, trying to make out the blurred images on the screen of his new television set. Murphy's nights had been ending this way for some time.
"Let me ask you something, Murphy."
Murphy exhaled slowly. "Go ahead."
"Got a man-woman kinda question foryou."
"Had me a little brown sugar action this morning, on the way in to work?"
Tutt, bragging double, not just letting Murphy know he had gotten some pussy, letting him know it had been some good black pussy in the bargain.
Tutt smiled. "Yeah. Lady took a long ride on that white pony."
Murphy thinking, Yeah, 'cause you promised some poor suckers' girlfriend that you wouldn't bust her old man if she gave a little up.
"Have a good time?" said Murphy.
"Good for you, man. So what was that question?"
"Right. So I'm playin' with her privates, see, got my finger right on the trigger."
"I haven't put it in her yet, but even without that, her elevator's gettin' ready to shoot right to the penthouse suite, you know what I mean? Just about then, the bitch looks up at me and goes, in this real whiny voice, 'Pleeeease?'"
"My question is, what was she askin' for? I mean, please what? Please do? Please don't? Please have a bigger dick? I was wonderin' if this was something, you know, the sisters say all the time, something I just don't know about."
"I wouldn't know, Tutt. I only been with one sister for the last ten years. Had some sisters before I was married, understand, but not every single sister. So I can't speak for all of them. And I sure couldn't tell you what this particular sister was lookin' for when she asked you the question."
"I'm bettin' she was begging for it. Had to be 'Please do.'"
"Think so, huh?"
Tutt drove the blue-and-white east on U. Black Washington's once grand street was ragged, near defeated by crime and indifference and Metro's Green Line construction, which had blighted the area for years. They passed the Republic theater, dark now, where Kevin Murphy had seen classics like J.D.'s Revenge and King Suckerman and a bad-ass prison picture called Short Eyes back in '77. Flyers touting the mayor's upcoming reelection effort were stapled to the telephone poles, his increasingly bloated image distorted in a haze of dust kicked up by jackhammers and trucks. Murphy's eyes followed a young dealer stepping out of a drug car parked at the curb.
"Don't get this wrong, partner . . ."
Don't get this wrong, huh? Here we go.
". . . but all I kept thinking of when I was hammering this black chick is that y'all, what I mean is you brothers, y'all fuck in a furious fuckin' way, you know what I mean?"
"That so. How'd you arrive at that conclusion?"
"Well, okay, here's what got me started. I was watchin' this porno flick the other night. My brother-in-law, the art director, brought it over. All-black cast; the star of the flick was hung like a donkey, you know what I'm sayin'? Anyway, this brother in the movie, he was just wailing on this punch, up on one arm, doing some high-ass, violent-ass thrusts."
"Man was goin' at it."
"Like I've never seen. And the way this girl was screaming, now, I shouldn't have been surprised. I mean, I've been with some black women, man. So you know that I've heard some screams."
"Oh, I know."
"But watchin' that porno tape, it made me think of that old expression."
"What expression's that?"
"'I thought I'd fucked a nigger'"Tutt grinned"'till I saw a nigger fuck a nigger.'" Tutt air-elbowed Murphy, cackled in that high-pitched way of his. "You ever hear that?"
Murphy stared at the Twenty-third Psalm card he had taped to the dash. He made his lips turn up into a smile. "Nah, King, I never did."
Tutt breathed out in relief. Murphy called him "King"Tutt's nickname from the Twinbrook neighborhood, where he'd come upmeant everything between them was okay. Course, Tutt knew it would be okay. Civilians didn't understand about the shell cops had, the things that could be said between partners. You could use any goddamn words you wanted to use in fun, because those were just words, and there was only one real thing that mattered, one serious task at hand, and that was to watch your partner's back out in the world and know that he would do the same. Sensitivity was for the high-forehead crowd, the ones standing comfortably behind that last line of defense, skinny-armed liberals and ACL-Jews. Men knew that words were just words and only action countedperiod.
"Hey, Murphy. I was just shittin' around. Hey, you all right?"
"I was thinking on somethin'," said Murphy. "That's all."
I was thinking of my wife . . . my mother, and my brother, and my father. Niggers, all of them. I was thinkin' on how I betray them every day, listening to those filthy words coming out of your fat redneck mouth, doin' nothing, saying nothing to shut you up. . . .
"Hey, Murphy. No offense, right?"
"Nah, Tutt," said Kevin Murphy. "None taken."
Murphy noticed the kid wearing the Raiders jacket, maybe ten or eleven, standing outside of Medger's Liquors at 12th and U. He had seen the kid the last year or so, hanging on that corner, often during school hours. No one had the time to bother much with truants anymore, but Murphy wondered what the kid was up to, if he was a runner or a baby foot soldier or just checking out the hustler's map, prepping himself for a lifetime of nothing.
"There's your boy," said Tutt. "Same as always. One of these days we ought to stop, see what his story is."
"I expect we'll be crossing paths someday. When he grows up some."
"Yeah, they all grow up, don't they? Grow up and fuck up."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Before I write my review, let me just say that George Pelecanos is my favorite writer of all time. Along with Richard Price and Dennis Lehane, Pelecanos writes very sophisticated crime thrillers. Unlike other crime novels, I find great messages within the normal twists and turns of most crime novels. I never like to give away too much plot for my reviews so I'll just say this, as in all of his books, is full of violence, references to awesome movies and music, and some of the greatest dialogue ever written. This is an awesome book as well as all of the other books in Pelecanos' D.C. Quartet.
It shows about how drugs and the wrong crowd can get you into trouble. It also shows that not every body will have a way out. I could not put the book down. If you are interested in how some parallles of city living can be then you should read this book.
Incredible book. I read it in two days and would have finished earlier if it wasn't for school and work. George P. Pelecanos has a great talent for creating wonderfully realistic stories and incredibly real characters. This book is action packed and brings out many emotions. You can easily relate to these characters and feel like you know them. Also being a fellow Greek, I love the little Greek things he includes in the books. It showcases some of the Greek culture, esp. strong family ties.