Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Hard Revolution by George Pelecanos

Hard Revolution: A NovelSimilar in style and substance to Pelecanos’ penultimate DC Quartet, ‘Hard Revolution’ is the forth novel to feature Derek Strange. Rather than a follow-up to the last Strange and Quinn PI novel ‘Soul Circus’, ‘Hard Revolution’ takes us back to a younger Derek growing up in the late 50’s and then on to his career as a police officer timed around the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.

The echoes of a revolution are omnipresent, racial vilification bears a similar resemblance to Ed Lacy’s ‘Room to Swing’ but on a slightly different scale (in comparison of each independent protagonist; Derek Strange to Lacy’s PI in Toussaint Moore). Pelecanos’ affinity for music of the era is well documented to establish a sense of time and place to his characters environment while the deeply researched political climate and sportscast like commentary further enhance that yesteryear feel.

The criminal elements comprise of two murders - one a hit and run, the other a horrific murder by knife, both a case of white on black hate with Derek thrust into a key point on both. Added by his poster boy partner and respected hard-man of the force Frank Vaughn, Derek battles not only to protect the streets and bring justice to those responsible for the murders but also to maintain allegiance to the law during the race riots of the late 60’s in Washington D.C.

For added value Nick Stefanos, senior and junior circa 1968 make an appearance – a nice bit of cross pollination of the Strange PI series and the Stefanos novels. I like how Pelecanos is able to bring these worlds together. It doesn’t feel forced or impedes Derek’s story in any way, a smooth and subtle blending of his works and a nice easter egg for fans.

The strength to any Pelecanos novel is the characters. In ‘Hard Revolution’ you’ll grow with Derek, see the world through his brother’s eyes, feel the pain of loss and the joy of love, and rationalise the illegal dispensing of justice by those in blue for the greater good. ‘Hard Revolution’ is a great jumping on point to the world Pelecanos has created. I recommend reading it before ‘Hell to Pay’, ‘Right As Rain’, and ‘Soul Circus’.

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