Nike mercurial 5 for a man on his way to a murder scene, George Pelecanos is in a damn good mood. And it’s a nice summer Saturday in Washington merciful breeze blowing in from God knows where he shifts gears on his 13 year old, maroon with bone interior BMW 528. Pelecanos cruises contentedly down Georgia Avenue just south of the District line. « I just like driving around the city, he says in his unassuming deadpan. « I drive into neighborhoods I don’t know anything about, just to check ’em out. There’s still a lot of the city that I don’t know, especially in Northeast, and that’s the biggest part of town,
But the area around upper Georgia Avenue Shepherd Park neighborhood and downtown Silver Spring been Pelecanos’ stomping grounds for all his 41 years; he’s never lived anywhere else. He nods toward an art deco neon sign, Morris Miller, a dull, unplugged red in the bright noon glare. The longtime booze emporium big and airy as an auto showroom just about every brand of alcohol known to man.
« That’s my liquor store, he says. « We used to go there when I was a teenager. the drinking age was 18. We’d drink in the parking lot and decide what we wanted to do that night,
In Pelecanos’ version of the District, Morris Miller is a landmark more essential to the cityscape than the Washington Monument. It has received the ultimate blessing Pelecanos can give: He has put it in his books.
Though Pelecanos has driven barely a mile from his Silver Spring bungalow, he’s already in another world. always made Jimmy’s pulse race, partly from the thrill of the new and partly from fear. Whatever the reason, he liked the way driving nike mercurial 5 into the city made him feel,
His eyes roving, Pelecanos passes pawnbrokers, Caribbean nightclubs, wig shops, Chinese carryouts, and car washes; then residential stretches of old brick apartment houses and awning shrouded row houses that resemble funeral homes and funeral homes that resemble Southern mansions the grandest residences on the block. Mostly there are the usual joints where you can get your checks cashed and your food deep fried and your fingernails painted the colors of a rainbow doused in a curbside oil slick.
Vintage ’70s funk Mayfield, Earth, Wind Fire, Average White Band from the tape deck. The music of his youth, it remains close at hand. He still listens to the area’s remaining soul stations, WPGC and WHUR, even though they’ve long been known as urban contemporary and are about as funky as Vanilla Ice. brand loyalty keeps him stuck and the fact that he’s an old school romantic who’s been with his wife Emily for two decades. « There’s nothing better than driving around on a summer night with your woman next to you, with the moon roof down and listening to HUR, listening to the Quiet Storm. Then he takes a right on Arkansas and steers the car down into the rabbit hole entrance of Rock Creek Park, the same route he takes to his day job as an independent film producer in the West End. Movies have always been his first love, and they’re what pay the bills. But, more and more, writing is what defines George Pelecanos.
On a pleasant day like this, driving the parkway is a real joy ride, like taking a tunnel carved into a giant bouquet of green. « There’s a lot of beauty here, he says. « I always tell people from out of town, ’til I bore ’em to death, that there’s no other city in the world like this, where you’ve got this huge park going through the entire city. You can get lost in these woods, man. You don’t even know you’re in a city anymore,
The parkway spills out behind the Kennedy Center, and Pelecanos takes the riverside curves fast and then weaves through the maze of monuments and green parks, where tourists swarm and weekenders play volleyball. This is all that most visitors see as worthy in the nation’s capital, having been fed a steady diet of negative headlines about the rest of the city. « I just get tired of hearing all the negative shit about Washington from people that don’t know, he says.
He turns onto the Southeast Southwest Freeway, where a compact car swerves wildly between several lanes, and finally ends up trapped at the split, stopped near the guard rail that separates the two exits. Sporting Virginia plates and flashers blinking in full panic mode, the car sits in a no man’s land. The stranded motorist doesn’t want to end up on the Wrong Side of Town. « This guy’s scared to death, says Pelecanos, chuckling. « Look at him. He doesn’t want to go to Anacostia,
Pelecanos has little sympathy for such people. as the monuments framed in his rearview mirror. that gives him the creeps is Georgetown, which he tries to avoid at all costs.
Pelecanos takes the exit for the Southeast Freeway, then he pulls off at the 8th Street ramp. He turns down M Street and goes by the Navy Yard, quiet on this weekend afternoon. After a while, and without much warning, M Street curls into a winding, tree choked country road, a strip of hot, faded tar that parallels some railroad tracks and the Anacostia River. Pelecanos passes the Stewart Petroleum gasworks complex. A lone hard hatted employee lingers at the chain link fence; watching the car go by, he resembles some rural porch sitter who hasn’t seen anyone for weeks. Pelecanos pulls the car up to a gravel parking lot near the water’s edge and kills the engine.
It’s deadly quiet, except for the distant hum of indistinguishable traffic from the 11th Street Bridge above. Capitol, the forlorn shore is a ruin of malt liquor bottles, used condoms, and anything else that can be tossed from the window of a moving car. The water lapping against the concrete abutment is a brackish, scum soup sign of life. If Rock Creek Park is the city’s crown jewel, the cradle of nature’s bounty, this is the capital’s outdoor sewer, a skanky terminus where everything comes to rot and die.
It’s the sort of shitpile that provides fertile turf for the fiction of George Pelecanos. This is the setting for the murder that opens his 1995 novel, Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go. Protagonist Nick Stefanos, a full time bartender and part time private investigator, has gotten drunk after closing up at the Spot, his watering hole over at 8th and G SE. Plagued by intermittent blackouts, he takes his Dodge Coronet 500 on a precarious ride that starts with him blasting Minor Threat along Independence Avenue and finishes dangerously close to the river’s edge. « This is where he ends up driving that night, says Pelecanos. « And you can imagine being out here at night moment you’re in the city, and the next,
The car went slowly down a single lane, asphalt road. Trees on both sides of the road. To the right, through the trees, colored lights reflected off the water. No music now in the car. The surge of laughter far away, and trebly slide guitar from a radio.
As Pelecanos writes it, the car finally rolls to a stop in some trees, and Stefanos manages to crawl out like some wounded beast. Lying in the trash and his own vomit, bugs all over him, he passes out. Sometime before dawn, he is awakened, but all he can do is lie in the darkness and listen:
The slam of a car door. The sound of something dragged through gravel and dirt. A steady, frantic moan.
The voice of a black man: « All right now. You already been a punk and shit. Least you can do is go out a man,
The moan now a muffled scream. Can’t move, can’t even raise my head. A dull plopping sound then a quiet splash.
The black man’s voice: chaussures de football nike « Just leave him,
Another voice, different inflection: « Kill a coon in this town and it barely makes the papers offense, you know what I mean. C’mon, let’s get outta here,
Tough and spare, this is the sort of hard boiled writing that Pelecanos has become known for. To the point and no showboating in either style or content this instance, just the off camera execution, punctuated by chaussures de football nike a killer’s dead on commentary about the local media. But this is just when Pelecanos gets going. He wants you to see what has happened in the darkness down by the water, to rub your face in its squalor. The next morning, Nick stumbles to the shoreline, where he finds something bobbing next to a half sunken, decaying houseboat:
A young black man lay in the water, his head and shoulders submerged, the shirtsleeve of one bound arm caught on a cleat in the piling. Duct tape had been wound around his gray face, covering his mouth. I could see an entry wound, small and purple, rimmed and burned black, below his chin. The bullet had traveled up and blown out the back of his head; brain stew, pink and chunked, had splashed out onto the piling. The gas jolt had bugged his eyes.
Down by the River is the third so far, the last in the Nick Stefanos series. The thing about Nick, see, is that he’s helluva nice guy, a good bartender and decent enough PI, but he’s a drunk and an overall fuckup, and Pelecanos just got tired of him. in the ’30s and ’40s, The Big Blowdown. He has been more popular with critics in England and prisoners in Lorton than with the mainstream reading public. As far as reaching a mass audience is concerned, he might as well have dropped the books into the Anacostia next to the duct taped floater.
Significant signs that Pelecanos’ luck may be changing, however, have begun to surface. Puff Daddy has bought the rights to King Suckerman, and the multiplatinum rapper plans to star in a film version slated for release next summer. premiere of Shaft at the Town Theater. More important to him, Suckerman has been issued as a mass market paperback, so it now sits stacked in grocery stores next to the latest Dean Koontz. Meanwhile, his other books are being rescued nike mercurial 5 from obscurity. The French publisher Gallimard has added Shoedog, his 1994 take on the hard boiled pulp tradition, to its prestigious catalog of modern nike mercurial 5 American noir fiction. His other titles, including the Stefanos trilogy, have appeared as part of Serpent’s Tail Mask Noir series in England. His latest, The Sweet Forever, is garnering more good press.
People on the cusp of stardom are prone to saying it won’t change a thing, but when Pelecanos asserts as much, you just don’t feel a reason to doubt him. He revels in his averageness nike mercurial 5 chaussures de football nike.