four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-HardRevolutionIn 1968, two African-American men living in Washington, D.C. navigate their way through the months prior to and following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Derek is a rookie policeman on a straight path. His older brother, Dennis, is a Vietnam vet who, despite vows to start a new life, takes to the streets. When Dennis enters Alvin Jones' world of drugs, shady deals, and crime, Derek intervenes. But the race riots following King's death destroy the glittering promise of the '60s, and magnify the personal tragedy that befalls the Strange family.
Little, Brown. 378 pages. $24.95.

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"It is through Strange's impressions of the city in which he has spent his entire life that the full dimensions of Pelecanos's talents are revealed. ... As he ever more closely scrutinizes his characters and their environs, it may emerge that his true subject is not Washington or crime or race but rather family, in all its manifestations, nuclear and national..." Anthony Walton

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
" [Pelecanos's novels] are reports from front lines that are only a few miles away, unblinking looks at a reality that is all around us, that perhaps we think we have known for years, and yet most often we have never really known at all." Patrick Anderson

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"For Pelecanos' loyal fans, Hard Revolution will be an essential addition to the repertoire; for the uninitiated, it will serve as an introduction to one of this country's finest writers, no matter the genre." Gary Dretzka

NY Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[D]espite the reader's certainty about where Hard Revolution is headed, Mr. Pelecanos writes clean, tight, cogent prose with a heartfelt urgency." Janet Maslin

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Hard Revolution also brims with local topography and color that should fascinate Washington D.C. devotees. ... [It] is not the thriller its publisher claims it is, but a prelude to the thrillers he has written: a patchwork quilt of scenes that, put together, provide precisely what Pelecanos claimed, a lurid, incandescent light to shine on a sliver of Washington's working class, on its unfolding predicaments and on the quandaries the author yearns to overcome." Eugen Weber

Critical Summary

Pelecanos first introduced a 50-something Derek Strange in Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, and Soul Circus. Hard Revolution takes us back in time and juxtaposes Derek's childhood with his early years as a cop. Pelecanos, a hard-boiled crime writer, sets this novel, like his previous ones, in a gritty, violent, and racist Washington, D.C. He makes no excuses for the era or place, describing the city and its workings in detailed, urgent, and often offensive prose. It's not a page-turner, but rather a window into the hope, and despair, of an era. The characters seek redemption, but don't always find it. At heart, notes The New York Times Book Review, the story speaks to "the ways Americans love, betray, help and cannot help one another."