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Drama City    by George Pelecanos order for
Drama City
by George Pelecanos
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

George Pelecanos sets his story in Washington DC, the titular Drama City. I especially like the hero this time. Lorenzo Brown, out of jail after eight years on a drug charge, works as a Humane Society Officer. He's passionate about his job, loves his own dog, Jasmine, and even gets along well with his parole officer, Rachel Lopez (who believed that 'people who were good to animals had more human potential than those who were not.)'

In many ways, she's the more messed up of the duo. Though she attends AA meetings, Rachel is addicted - to alcohol and to risky liaisons, which she uses to escape her troubled past and give herself the illusion of control of her life. She's risking a great deal, in mixing the 'bad Rachel and the good.' Lorenzo is still friendly with gang leader/drug dealer Nigel Johnson, though he no longer works for him. We see both Rachel and Lorenzo go about their parallel jobs, of people and animal rescue, and face similar issues including cases of those so damaged by past abuse that there's no way back.

In parallel with Lorenzo's attempts to improve the conditions of canines in his charge (including breaking up a fight-dog session), we see one of Nigel's boys make a stupid error, which is then compounded by a rival gang's involving a 'hard kid' named Rico in what was supposed to be a measured response. Violence explodes and involves good people, who deserved better. As Lorenzo muses to an ex-con friend, 'But if these kids knew how it had to end ... I mean, if you could only tell 'em.' But you can't, of course.

In a casual style that sneaks up on readers, Pelecanos shows us scarred people just trying to get along and even better their lives, alongside others so hurt that all they can do is lash out, just like the unpredictable, victimized pit bull Lincoln that Lorenzo concludes can never be socialized. There's greed and hatred and violence in Drama City, but there's also friendship, loyalty, and hope for a better future. I look forward to more of Lorenzo Brown.

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