The Turnaround

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 July, 2009, 12:00am

The Turnaround

by George Pelecanos



George Pelecanos was one of several writers given a leg-up by the television crime drama The Wire. In many ways, The Turnaround is back to business for Pelecanos. As often in his work, the story spans two time periods: in the first, a group of young boys is bound by a single event; in the second, the same characters confront that event as sadder and wiser adults. Whereas Dennis Lehane, acclaimed novelist and co-writer on The Wire, likes to build up a story, Pelecanos strips it down. The Turnaround begins in spring 1972. Pelecanos coolly assembles a group of bored, high and reckless young men. They steal a Gran Torino, cruise into a predominantly black area of Washington DC and shout 'Eat this you f***ing niggers,' before throwing a cherry pie at three equally reckless black young men on the sidewalk. They then drive into a dead-end. A shot echoes 'out into the streets of Heathrow Heights' and keeps echoing throughout the novel as Pelecanos examines the impact that single night has on the main characters. Race, Afghanistan, masculinity, violence and America are all grist to Pelecanos' mill. And Pelecanos grinds exceedingly finely.