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“Hard Revolution ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 15/01/2004

Hard Revolution
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown, Mar 2004, $24.95, 384 pp.
ISBN: 0316608971

In 1968 Derek Strange joins the DC Metro Police Department even as his two best pals from his childhood, the Dominic and Angelo Martini accuse him of selling out to the man. While his soul brothers make a living with stealing and scoring with easy women, Derek struggles to stay on the legal high road while unrest grows in the black community.

Avoiding being an Uncle Tom yet doing what he feels is right becomes even more difficult for Derek when his older brother Naval Reservist Dennis is addicted to drugs while encouraged by homicidal Alvin Jones and his cousin Kenneth Willis. As the Reverend King leads peaceful civil disobedience rallies that eventually lead to his assassination and rioting in the cities, Derek has doubts that he chose the right path almost a decade ago when as a teen he decided to go straight.

This prequel is an interesting deep looks at life in the ghetto especially on African-Americans before and after the King assassination. The story line is incredible when it showcases the criminal element planning and conducting robberies with the civil rights movement in the backdrop. Though the days before that fatal moment in Memphis seem disassociated with the King murder, the aftermath is brilliantly described as crime becomes the norm and anarchy rules whether it is a killing machine like Alvin or a straight shooter like Derek Strange. This is a fabulous work that brings home a bygone era through a sociology lens in which George Pelecanos is at his best painting the characters living in the traumatic landscape.

Harriet Klausner

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