The book that most got to me this year was Shannon Burke's Black
Flies, which is a coming of age story about an EMT (emergency medical
technician) in Harlem in the early 1990s. Although the book is tough,
colloquial, dark, and sometimes even sinister, it's probably
technically neither hardboiled nor noir. Hell, it's even got a happy
ending, and it got a front page review in the New York Times Book
Review, which is impressive for a paperback original. But the tight,
simple story is compelling, and the incidents described stick with
you. Today's EMTs probably see more real life ugliness and trauma in a
week's shifts than a classic PI saw in a lifetime.
I also just recently read Pelecanos's The Turnaround. I'm a Pelecanos
devotee and enjoyed this one a lot, but I think it's slightly less
than his best. Some of the chronic Pelecanos themes (see
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=36005 for useful
commentary) are a little overused, even for me. The list's Pelecanos
haters (hi Brian!) should skip it. My latest Pelecanos experience is
in working my way through The Wire, which I highly recommend once you
clear out 12 hours of your life per season for concentrated viewing.
Bob V in NJ, who's been a rara-avis member for at least 10 years and
probably posted less than 10 times . . . .
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