What It Was by George Pelecanos
What It Was concerns the lives of real people, mostly cops and criminals, in a city scarred by riots. The popular conception of 14th Street is that it was a wasteland, from the disturbances of 1968 to the start of gentrification in the 1980s. But life went on. Pimps, drug dealers and hustlers of all kinds moved in. And for a lot of them, and the cops that pursued them, it was a hell of a time, even a good one.
Pelecanos has a great eye from the details of the time, from the tricked-out cars to the soul music of the 1970s. He also resurrects a lot of old DC haunts, legendary bars and restaurants that are long gone in this gentrified city. His knowledge of the city is encyclopedic. For example, Red hides out in Burrville, a neighborhood I didn’t even know existed.
What It Was is a fast, involving read. Pelecanos’s style is muscular, alternating perspectives as it advances towards an inevitably violent conclusion.
What It Was is also the first book I’ve read on my iPad. Using the Kindle app, set to sepia, it was a comfortable reading experience – though not as easy on the eyes as using an e-ink reader like the Kindle.
But the 99 cent strategy worked for me. After dipping into the gritty crime world of What It Was, I’m primed to read the rest of Pelecanos’s work.
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