cover image King Suckerman

King Suckerman

George P. Pelecanos, Author Little Brown and Company $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-69590-9

Taking its name from a fictional blaxploitation film attended by many of its characters, the latest from acclaimed D.C, noir writer. Pelecano centers on an interracial friendship, circa 1976, between a Greek proto-slacker, the pot-dealing Dimitri Karras, and his partner in crime, a black Vietnam veteran and record store-owner named Marcus Clay. Far more sympathetic (and less criminal) than your run-of-the-mill pulp heroes, these two find themselves embroiled in this blood-soaked story largely by accident after they walk into the midst of a high-tension drug deal and leave with a new set of very dangerous enemies. The baddest of the baddies is Wilton Cooper, a character clearly meant to evoke a blaxploitation hero, the difference being that Cooper turns out to be a full-blown psycho in cool cat's clothing. Packed as the novel is with Pelecanos's usual, meticulous details of pop life in middle- and working-class Washington, comparisons to Pulp Fiction are inevitable. But Pelecanos is more than merely slick; there's heart behind the Tarantino-esque ephemera, and these details carry with them the sadness of a city teetering on the brink of its last great decline into violence and segregation. The narrative itself is deft if unsurprising, and the dialogue is unfailingly true to the lives it lays bare. In fact, many of the novel's most engaging scenes occur when Pelecanos focuses instead on Dimitri's character, his complex friendship with Marcus and the city that lies so convincingly behind them. (Aug.)