ORION £12.99 (304PP) £11.69 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897
The Turnaround, by George Pelecanos
Heart and soul – but not rap – in the ghetto
Friday 22 August 2008
If you regard crime fiction as an avenue of escape from the troubling realities of modern society, George Pelecanos is not for you. If, however, you feel that crime is a branch of literature that can confront social problems more trenchantly than most literary novels, this writer should be on your bedside table. Pelecanos has been a ruthless anatomist of the inequalities of American society, and a passionate advocate for change. The Turnaround is a return to form after recent below-par entries, its unfolding narrative shot through with a visceral energy.
It's 1972, and summer in Washington DC. Three white teenagers, high on drugs, drive a stolen car through a dangerous black neighbourhood. Shouting racial taunts at kids, they are enjoying their bravado, but suddenly find themselves trapped in a dead-end street with a mob that wants payback. Violence erupts, and two boys get away, while one, Billy, is killed.
Both the white teenagers and neighbourhood youths go on with their lives, but several have been changed irrevocably. Three decades pass, and there is contact between two of those involved. But what looks like the possibility for a rough salvation is endangered by another protagonist, finally out of prison and set on bloody revenge.
Those who know Pelecanos will expect a multifaceted approach to crime and race that refuses easy answers. The author's sympathy for the black community is well known, and his blood boils at the disenfranchising of a whole swathe of society. But this sympathy doesn't preclude his bitter criticism of the self-destructive, meaningless violence and empty macho posturing of the young men in the ghetto.
The famous music "playlists" of Pelecanos's books – an annotated soundtrack of favourite rock and soul – do not feature rap. Thankfully, he has reined in this stylistic tic: another reason why The Turnaround is his most incisive and authoritative novel in some time.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Last Tango in Halifax, BBC1, review: Hooray for Halifax, where cosy familiarity and real surprises are perfectly in step
Game of Thrones named most-pirated TV show of 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE over 'religious mistakes'
Marilyn Manson breaks silence on Lana Del Rey rape clip: 'I wouldn't make a video of that nature'
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Douglas Carswell tells Ukip to stop blaming foreigners as youth poll shows Nigel Farage is even less popular than Nick Clegg