George P. Pelecanos Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Equally influenced by punk music, the highly stylized action films of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and writers of noir fiction, George P. Pelecanos has lifted the hard-boiled genre to new heights. Early in his career, he announced that his goal was to take what he had learned from hard-boiled masters such as Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis and mix it with what he had learned from the punk-music scene (namely bands such as Husker Du, Fugazi, and the Replacements) that swept through the District of Columbia in the 1980’s to update the hard-boiled genre to encompass modern urban concerns. Having been successful in this regard, Pelecanos’s other major contribution to current crime literature is his crisp dialogue (heavily influenced by the crime novels of Elmore Leonard) that captures the various voices of the District of Columbia’s mean streets spanning the last hundred years. Pelecanos strips clean the language and expertly adopts the voices of private investigators, police officers, gangsters, members of street gangs, and—above all—working-class people, those who live on the knife edge between the dark abyss of themselves and the dark abyss of humanity. Pelecanos has been branded the “coolest writer in America,” and he is widely acknowledged as a modern master of the hard-boiled genre. He has received praise for each of his novels and continues to be well received by his contemporaries, including Jonathan Lethem, Dennis Lehane, Stephen King, Daniel Woodrell, and Vicki Hendricks.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anderson, Patrick. The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction. New York: Random House, 2007. Section on Pelecanos talks about his slow path to success with his books centered on the black community in Washington, D.C.

Daly, Sean. “Heavy Hitter: George Pelecanos Puts More Punch into Capital Crime.” Book Magazine, 14 (January/February 2001): 18-20. An exploration of Pelecanos’s hard-hitting prose.

Fierman, Daniel. “D.C. Confidential: Mystery Writer George Pelecanos Breaks Out of Washington’s Mean Streets.” Entertainment Weekly, 643 (March 8, 2002): 36-38. Explores Pelecanos’s success on the eve of the release of Hell to Pay. Fierman also wrote an exceedingly positive review of Drama City for Entertainment Weekly in 2005.

Greenman, Ben. “Washington Wizard.” New Yorker, 78 (April 8, 2002): 90-92. A useful overview of Pelecanos’s career from 1992 to 2002.

Hatchette Book Group. George Pelecanos. pelecanos/. Pelecanos’s publisher offers an official Web site for the author. Provides a brief biography, several interviews, and informal essays by Pelecanos on his favorite music, films, and literature.

Palmer, John-Ivan. “Roaches Ate My Face, Hard-Boiled Crime Novelist George Pelecanos.” Your Flesh Quarterly 34 (1996): 55-61. An article on Pelecanos by the world’s fastest and funniest hypnotist.