"There are certain bars I don't hang in... I'm not gonna sit around and have drinks with people who are, you know, ironic."
With The Cut (2011), crime writer George Pelecanos introduced Iraq war vet SPERO LUCAS, a 29-year old man adopted by Greek-Americans. It's Pelecanos' latest troubled young man; another battered soul who's seen far too much, and is still trying to figure out how to make his way in the world without being crushed by it.
Lucas seems to have found it, working occasionally for a hot-shot defense lawyer in Washington, D.C., doing "special" investigations, but what he really does is retreive lost or stolen property.
Sometimes from some not very nice people.
On behalf of some not very nice people.
No questions asked.
For those of you who've followed Pelecanos' work faithfully since the beginning, you know what a big deal this is, and what a blast it could be: a new P.I. from one of the very best writers working the gumshoe genre these days -- and one who for too long has been pursuing other, non-P.I. writing goals.
Not that Pelecanos' standalones like The Night Gardener or his awesome work on HBO's The Wire and Treme haven't been appreciated, but gee, George, it's good to have you back where you belong.
And Spero, it turns out, is a real treat.
He's definitely not your grandfather's gumshoe. Lucas will occasionally sketch something in a small notebook, but mostly he dictates notes right into his ever-present iPhone, and is quick to use it to take snaps as well. Nor does he sit in dives in his off hours and work on his elbow-bending -- nope, he works out, and bicycles and goes for long walks all over D.C., and he enjoys good food, the local music scene and the company of women.
And that, for the most part, is his life. He doesn't seem to have many long range plans.
He's a recently returned vet from Iraq who's just fallen into his present occupation, almost as if by accident. As he explains it, "When I came back from the Middle East, I did a little security work. Limo companies, driving celebrities and dignitaries, like that. I also silent-bounced at a couple of clubs. One night at the bar I met a woman whose boyfriend had stolen her jewelry before he broke up with her. She was a nice person and this guy was a bully; he'd fucked her over... I agreed to try and get her stuff back. She asked me what my fee was, and forty per cent came into my head. I don't know why...Her jewelry was worth a lot of money, and my take was substantial. I thought, I can get used to this."
You gotta love THAT voice. A former altar boy who's seen way too much, but is still trying to figure things out; a young man who makes a point of visiting his mom and having supper with her and his brother (a black high school teacher) and attending church on a regular basis on the one hand, and on the other, a seasoned combat vet who's more than willing to get his hands bloody, if that's what he's gotta do.
Somehow, Pelecanos has crawled right into Lucas' head, and given us a totally unique voice we haven't heard from yet. Sure, at times the tidal wave of 20-something pop culture references may seem a little forced at times (Pelecanos is my age), but there's no doubt he's really tapped into something fresh and new here -- a long walk from the semi-alcoholic, cynical, brooding middle-aged loners we all grew up on.
It'll be interesting to see how Lucas develops and grows. And e-book readers of The Cut get an extra -- "Chosen," a short, non-crime story detailing the history of Lucas' Greek-American parents and their multi-racial adopted family (much like Pelecanos' own). Not essential, perhaps, but it really sets up a world and a life, and makes me really want to see what Lucas does next even more.
George Pelecanos a producer and an Emmy-nominated writer on the HBO hit series The Wire, and the author of a bestselling series of novels set in and around Washington, D.C. He's also the creator of Washington D.C. eyes Nick Stefanos and mismatched gumshoes Derek Strange & Terry Quinn.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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