RARA-AVIS: _Right as Rain_

From: Larson, Craig ( Craig.Larson@tsjc.cccoes.edu)
Date: 19 Feb 2001

This is a great list, though I do spend most of my time lurking. I've picked up more ideas for books to search for, online and in used bookstores, from this list than anywhere else, even the vaunted Dorothyl. I've tried to get involved with the reading series--went so far as to get a pair of Mike Shayne mysteries, but then I got stuck about 30 pages into the first one. I read the Willeford series about Hoke Mosely (sp?) 15 years ago and couldn't find the books again. I've got a stack of Richard Prather books just waiting for the right day ...

I thought long and hard about this posting, since I know George Pelecanos is a list member. But I had to do it, at the risk of sounding like a fawning fanboy. Over the weekend, I read Pelecanos' latest,
_Right as Rain_ and what a beautiful novel it was. Actually, I've cruised through his entire output in the past 10 or so months, and this book ranks right up there with _The Sweet Forever_, still my favorite.

I love the way he describes Washington, D.C. in these books. I don't think I'd want to live there, but his characters obviously love the place and there are times when that affection almost overshadows the violent, seedy, downtrodden neighborhoods and lives described elsewhere. I also love the way the same character weave in and out of the books, and how you can chart the downfall of the city, from _The Big Blowdown_ onward.

That said, this book doesn't feature any of the characters from previous books, although the main relationship, between Terry Quinn, a former policeman and currently clerk in a used book/record store, and Derek Strange, also a former policeman (though much longer ago) and current private detective, might remind readers of the friendship between Dmitri Karras and Marcus Clay, in _King Suckerman_ and _The Sweet Forever_. This is because Terry is white and Derek is black. And this, along with a riveting mystery, is Pelecanos' main theme in the book: how are the races getting along? Is it possible to cross the divide and be friends? There are a lot of probing insight into this throughout the course of the book.

Essentially, Strange is hired to look into the shooting of an off-duty policeman, Chris Wilson, by Quinn, some years before. Although Quinn has been cleared of wrongdoing, there's still some question whether he was too quick to pull the trigger, simply because Wilson was black. From there, the two men gradually develop a real friendship, as they delve into the case Wilson was working on, a case that eventually proves to involve drugs and gangs.

This is, simply put, great writing. Elmore Leonard has nothing on Mr. Pelecanos when it comes to writing memorable dialogue. And the racial issues at the emotional core of the novel really elevate it above the norm. Since I've moved from an English professor to the librarian at a small junior college in southern Colorado, I've been adding his books to the collection and it's been gratifying to see them go out and to hear the positive comments. If anyone on the list still hasn't read Mr. Pelecanos, what are you waiting for?

Craig Larson Trinidad, CO

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