Re: RARA-AVIS: Shame the Devil

From: a.n.smith (
Date: 08 Mar 2002

> I'm reading Shame the Devil by Pelecanos.

>This is my first Pelecanos and I must say I am disappointed so far. The
book is fast paced at >first but then slows down in endless getting to know different characters. The
> characterization is poor with cardboard people that seem like characters
> a book, they just don't come alive. Sometimes less is more and something
> character says or does can let you see that character for what they are
> better than fact fact fact about a person. After the first few pages this
novel becomes >pedestrian, uninspired and down right boring. Is all Pelecanos like this?

No. In fact, THIS one isn't like "this." I don't know what your mindset is here, and maybe there's something to be said for different tastes, but I find your thoughts here so off from the reactions I have to Pelecanos' work. Cardboard? Boring? But you think the Faulkner book is exciting and inspired and not bogged down? Having read a lot of both, I just shake my head.

The characterizations are what drew me into Pelecanos' books, long before he gained his current noteriety. I wanted to read about the lives of these people, *not* like they were characters in a book, but living breathing souls. I've always thought his pacing works very well.

As for your complaints about the details of the pizza joint heist--huh? I don't make the same connections you did here. A good criminal would care less about procedure because he's robbing a restaurant instead of a bank? These days?

Running across Pelecanos' BIG BLOWDOWN by accident in the library six years ago broke a stalemate in me, as I had turned away from writing fiction, more specifically crime fiction. This book brought me back, and I went to find his backlist and then awaited each new one. While I've got a wide reading palette in both literary and crime fiction, the next GP is the book I always look forward to.

In the time since I came back to writing after reading BB, I've published over 20 short stories, both crime and literary. Today, I defended my dissertation (a short story collection) for a Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing.

Seems to me a pedestrian and boring writer wouldn't inspire anyone that much. But hey, different tastes, different folks.

Neil Smith

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