Re: RARA-AVIS: Down By the River

From: Graham Powell (
Date: 19 Dec 2001

>From: William Denton <>
>(1995) today.

This was the first book by Pelecanos I read and is still my favorite. It's very dark, especially the end, but I really liked it. I really enjoyed the feeling that you'd been dropped into another person's life. He does things outside of his "work" on the case, but it doesn't feel like it's shoehorned into the narrative, like a lot of detective fiction that includes the detective's private life.

My two favorite scenes: where Stefanos has dinner with his girlfriend's parents, and gets a private lecture that starts with, "You're an alchoholic, Nick." The other scene is where he meets with a young black man, the boyfriend of the victim's sister. Though the boyfriend "dissed" Nick at their first meeting, he's also working a menial fast-food job so he can support his child with the sister, so Nick understands that he's a man who takes care of his responsibilites, and they relate man-to-man. I think this
"be a man" theme runs through much of Pelecanos' fiction, especially THE BIG BLOWDOWN, where Pete Karras thinks of himself as just the crippled cook in a greasy spoon, but all his friends see him as a pillar of the community.

Incidentally, you're right about Nick's appearance in SWEET FOREVER. And while RIVER ends very darkly, SHAME THE DEVIL ends with hope, for both Nick and his friend Dmitri Karras.

(As you may have guessed, I am a big Pelecanos fan.)

----------------- Hardboiled and Noir

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