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The Sweet Forever (Five Star)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2000
American novels have an ear for conversation that British ones lack - as converted to celluloid by Tarantino. If George V Higgins is the master then Pelicanos is coming up fast. Set in Washington DC in 1986 - a city not facing up to a rising tide of drugs - this novel tells the tale of one block. A Vietnam vet has opened his 4th record store in a downtown area where drug peddlers command the respect given a generation before to the police. One car crash and a foolish move by a white boy out of his territory sparks off a tale that takes in the BIG 3 subjects - sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll - with plenty of violence to boot. At times the 80's references seem as forced as in "The Wedding Singer" - but the flow of the voices and the spiralling plot demand your attention.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
This is the sequel to King Suckerman, is the third novel in Pelecanos' DC Quartet, and is as good as both the preceding novels. Yet again it features the unlikely 'salt and pepper' pairing of Marcus Clay and Dmitri Karras, and their attempts to keep their heads above the rising tide of drugs, gang violence and police corruption in Washington DC. Nick Stefanos, from Pelecanos' earlier work, puts in an appearance too.

Much of the action takes place on Washington's drug-dealing corners, amongst kids who are barely in their teens, and anyone who is a fan of 'The Wire' will find themselves on familiar territory.

Two main criticisms: when the violence finally erupts, it is sometimes ridiculously OTT, with jets of blood and chunks of flesh sprayed liberally across the pages; and the topical references (including lengthy basketball commentaries) are rather clumsily shoe-horned into the text. If you're not au fait with american basketball legends of the 1980s, you'll need to consult wikipedia to truly appreciate the tragedy which is hinted at on the very last page of the book, and its particular relevance to Dmitri Karras.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It's 1986 and things are out of control on the streets of Washington DC. Bent cops are on the take, drug dealers and crooks run the streets, but one man - record store owner Marcus Clay - takes a stand against the decline. As a synopsis, it could have been done hundreds of times before, but Pelecanos brings a fresh slant to things, and writes well into the bargain.

The Sweet Forever reads like a violent morality play for our times; a kind of justice prevails at the book's bloody conclusion, but the author's biggest triumph is this: you actually take an interest in the low-life characters he writes about throughout the story. A rare quality in fiction of this type.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2010
I'd had The Sweet Forever on my shelf for a while waiting to be read. Since then I've watched and loved every episode of the almost life changing The Wire, which Pelecanos wrote several episodes of.

In comparison to that show's immaculate naturalism and thrilling moral ambiguity, this feels more like an entertaining genre piece, it's first intention to keep you hooked with tense set pieces and hip dialogue. Characters largely divide into identifiably 'good' or 'bad' but are well written, with the details ringing clarion true; bigoted cop Tutt's certainty an apocalyptic race war is coming, housewife Wanda's rigid adherence to her schedule of soaps and sitcoms as the rest of life falls apart around her.

Even the smallest characters are vivdly sketched, but the beating heart of the story are Reel Right Records owner and employee Clay and Karras, the former a hardnosed, hardworking Vietnam Vet, the latter an elegantly wasted, ageing partier, whose friendship always, crucially, feels plausible. The quite different relationship of the two men to the drug trade is a clever, well executed device.

Pelecanos acutely captures the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of DC, and the period feel works well. Like Jonathan Lethem, Pelecanos wears his musical taste on his sleeve, and readers who relished The Fortress of Solitude's deep dish of punk and soul references should dig what's here.

The book does try to bring home the cycle of violence and despair on the streets in poor, forgotten parts of the US, but Pelecanos offers a slightly offputting encouragement for his characters to man up in times of crisis, solving their problems with a decisive act of violence or intimidation. It's surely far off the answer to the social ills documented.
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on 7 January 2014
Crack Cocaine is a major concern in many cities in the US, Washington being one of them. However, before crack was popular, pure(ish) cocaine itself ruled the day. George P Pelecanos' `The Sweet Forever' is a story from those mid-80s days and shows that cocaine is as much of an issue as any other Class A drug. Marcus Clay is a Washington local who just wants to make a success out of his chain of local music stores, but the youths on the street and his own partner Dmitri Karras are not helping. When a car crashes and some drug money goes missing a series of events are set off that will prove that cocaine is a killer.

It is easy to see why Pelecanos was asked to join the writing team for `The Wire' when reading `The Sweet Forever'. This is a book that acts as a calling card before David Simon even knew he was going to make the show. It investigates how recreational drug use can impact on the urban poor; a middle class addiction can lead to murder. The book starts off slowly and does not have many sympathetic characters. However, the first third is all set up for a novel that increasingly pays out as it goes along. The character of Clay is central, but only really comes to the fore near the end as a sane man in an insane city.

At times `The Sweet Forever' is hard to stomach, the language is course and the attitudes neanderthalic. However, this is pretty much the point. Pelecanos captures a seedy 80s of bad hair, good music and cut drugs. The book is similar to `Less Than Zero', but with more purpose. The way that dominos slowly fall means you can see the action hotting up and rush towards an excellent conclusion. It is just a shame that the initial part of the book is a little too slow, some people may not stick with it.
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on 6 November 2014
The Sweet Forever is the third in George Pelecanos's generational D.C series, this one set in the 1980s. Fans of his style will find lots to love here, sympathetic good guys, scary villains, fast action, and a musical soundtrack that evokes a time and place. I don't know how authentic Pelecanos's dialogue really is, but it always reads real to me, with hardly a wasted word or false note. Excellent as always.
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on 19 August 2015
Pelecanos can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned
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on 29 October 2014
Huge fan and this is awesome.
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