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The Big Blowdown [Paperback]

George Pelecanos
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Sep 1999
For Joey Recevo and Pete Karras, two kids from one of Washington's rougher neighborhoods, the easiest work to find after the War is all criminal---providing a little muscle for a local boss. But Karris is soft on his fellow immigrants, and the boss can't let his mob get soft, so one of his boys gives Karras a painful lesson. Three years later, it's the same mob that figures big Nick Stefanos's grill needs protection---and this decision will once again bring Joey and Pete face-to-face. In this final confrontation, the two of them will find the meaning of friendship, the heart of honor, and the cost of both.Powerfully told, elegantly wrought, "The Big Blowdown" is a knockout.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Saint Martin's Press Inc. (29 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312242913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312242916
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,412,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In the quartet of novels about life in Washington DC of which The Big Blowdown is chronologically the first, George Pelecanos intelligently breaks down the thin barriers between the noir thriller and the character-driven novel of embattled masculinity. In the 1930s, Pete Karras and Joey Recevo are friends, backing each other up in street fights round the projects. Both go to war and come back changed; Joey is capable of buying into the criminal subculture and cutting adrift from community and Pete, almost fatally, isn't. He ends up betrayed and crippled and, more than ever, obsessed with doing the right thing himself and making Joey do right again... The observation here of small immigrant subcultures, and different kinds of honour, and the getting of wisdom about things as disparate as a good sharp knife for cooking and killing and the purer sorts of jazz, is stunning. He knows what people are doing whether they are Greek cooks learning about African-American food or cops chasing a serial killer. Above all, though, this is a novel about flawed people making bad choices and worse ones; Pelecanos's sense of place and period is always in the service of his subtle grasp of psychology and his passionate moral commitment. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

?Pelecanos has enormous strengths as a crime writer. He can?t write a dull sentence, his dialogue has great rhythm, his action scenes are ferociously effective? Observer ?Pelecanos has joined James Lee Burke and Lawrence Block at the high table of contemporary crime greats? The Times ?Stands head and shoulders above the output of better known writers. Superb? Independent on Sunday --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Washington in the 40s 10 Sep 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
We follow the fortunes of Peter Karras, a Greek American living in Washington DC, before, during and after World War II. After coming out of the war a hero, Karras, along with his childhood friend Joe Recevo, finds himself drifting along, occasionally providing muscle for the Mafia in their protection rackets. When Karras makes the mistake of showing leniency towards one of his boss's "clients", it's inevitable that he has to be taught a (painful) lesson. The story is ultimately a commentary on how the two friends deal with the different directions their lives have taken, particularly when their paths cross again.
The mood of the time and place are captured with remarkable vividness. Even the street noises are described in such a way that it almost feels as if we are there watching the drama unfold in front of us. I feel this is the defining novel for George Pelecanos and a must read for Pelecanos fans. I can't recommend it highly enough without appearing to gush, so I'll just say that it's a fantastic piece of American literature that manages to capture the 40's very nicely.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Dark. Utterly Brilliant 6 May 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I never thought I would find another author to rival James Ellroy - but I've found the only real contender.
This novel starts slowly then interleaves several character-driven stories leading to an unforgetable climax. Pelecanos clearly loves his tarnished characters and they inhabit a brilliantly realised, seedy Washington of the 1940's.
This is the sort of noir where you can smell the cigarette smoke and taste the bourbon. I read it in two days and I've just ordered all his other novels.
Superlatives galour!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars glorious pup fiction 19 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
My first Pelecanos -but not the last- I had been intrigued by the reviews and the link to the Wire.
Pelecanos has a great ear for dialogue and superb characterisation, bringing scenes and characters to life in a cinematic fashion which is rarely contrived. Hard men, (and as a central character a Spartan hero in 40's DC) going through tough times, fast cars and fast women as cool jazz music goes on the radio. Think of Kiss Me Deadly or the Big Combo, with scenes from Once upon a Time in America and Cotton Club...
Beyond the masterly dialogue lies a sympathy for characters and the rare ability to make you care, after only a couple of pages. Women's characterisation is not exactly subtle -and one character's obsession with nuclear carnage rings fake- , but as far as fantasy and sexual tension go, give them full marks. Sophisticated pulp fiction that left me wanting for more, purchasing the next three from the DC quartet in order to get my new Pelecanos fix. Shouldyou try it? Mosdef!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 23 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Well developed characters and a remarkable sense of place and time make this book a real treat. Pelecanos avoids all the usual "ethnic" and genre clichés and develops a fascinating mosaic of characters in post-war America. This was my first Pelecanos book but certainly not the last!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply brilliant 30 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
pelecanos captures the atmosphere of post war washington and portrays the characters against an emerging social structure. The hero is a typical "noir" character, with understated violent tendencies, coupled with a strong belief in what is "right". Typically flawed, the hero, Karris, takes us on a journey through his brief life from childhood, in a poor, immigrant neighbourhood, culminating in his inevitable destiny. Suviving superbly described horrors in the pacific theatre of the 2nd world war, Pelecanos conveys, via Karris, the problems faced by the non "american" population of washington as they attempt to forge a new working life in the USA, after the war. The plot is sufficiently diverse without becoming confusing, and I found myself sympathising with the characters and their dilemmas. I have read Mosley, Burke etc and found this to be the most refreshing novel in a long time. Bring on the rest of the DC Quartet.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking 2 Dec 2001
Format:Paperback
This was the first Pelecanos novel I've read, and it reminded me of discovering Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosely or A Morning for Flamingoes by James Lee Burke. This is American crime writing at its best. Great plot, characterisation, atmosphere and credibility. If you're into this type of novel, then The Big Blowdown is an absolute must.
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