It’s been a while since I’ve read a book, and an even longer time since I’ve had to write a book report. So I’ll just drop the straight dope on “The Turnaround”, the most recent novel by local guy George Pelecanos: It’s good.
In a nutshell, the plot rolls like this: It’s 1972 in suburban Silver Spring, and three white teens cruise into a black neighborhood to raise a little hell. While there, they encounter four black teens who just aren’t interested. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that disaster ensues.
Flash forward to 2008. The teens are now men, each following his own path (for better or for worse). But that pesky bastard Fate has plans for them, setting them up for what could be another round of communal disaster. So does the punk-ass rich kid get capped in the end? Does the street hustler find redemption? Can Silver Spring be saved from itself?
I’ll leave you hanging there.
What should be known is that the characters are so rich, so well developed. Pelecanos draws them with a fine-tipped pen, giving them details that make them more than charicatures of the corner drug dealer or the self-pitying coffee-shop owner. Each character absorbs elements that are common to everyone — hope, fear, ambition, dejection — to varying degrees.
That kind of character development makes the foreign seem familiar. Readers won’t ask, “How does Pelecanos know so much about the underworld? What kind of crew is he running with?” Instead, they’ll say,” Damn! He’s good.”
Pelecanos also threads the plot with plenty of suspense without burdening it with too many details. (Those arcane details were a drag on his last book, “The Night Gardener”.) And because common factors drive the characters’ actions, their motives are easy to absorb.
Oh, and then there’s Pelecanos’s signature shout-outs to the neighborhood. He makes endless references to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, some of the slummier stretches of Nortwest DC, the Long Branch end of Silver Spring, and Wheaton. He even hollers (albeit briefly) at a local historian named McCoy.
So do yourself a favor: Hit the Silver Spring library’s bookfest on Saturday, grab a copy of this book, and enjoy!
Images courtesy of Hachette Books Group USA.