Next-in-Reading #11: Drama City

Next In ReadingTitle: Drama City
Author: George Pelecanos
Publisher: Phoenix
Year: 2006

“You’re human, is all.”

One of my spoils from The Book Grocer, in Melbourne =)
One of my spoils from The Book Grocer, in Melbourne =)

Out of prison and on probation, Lorenzo Brown is doing his best to leave his drug-riddled past and go straight with his new life. Hardworking Probation Officer Rachel Lopez finds get recovery potential in Brown, but is struggling with her own alcoholic problems. When the gang life threatens to reclaim Brown, both of them have to work together to ensure that the threat is eradicated, and come out of it walking the straight line.


Lorenzo Brown, Reformed Addict

On parole after eight years in prison, Brown presents an extraordinary drive to rehabilitate himself and go the straight road. His determination is rather strong, shown in his passion for his work (transferring from a paper pusher to a field Animal Control officer) and his honesty with Lopez, his probation officer. It was also mentioned multiple times of how Lopez saw him as one of the cases with the most potential to thrive back in society.

Despite his determination to go legit, Brown possesses a certain amount of loyalty – in his relationships and his past. His desire to see his daughter shows a loyalty to his child – an honest, familial love that is often rejected. And while he had made a promise to not return to the gangs, he continues to see Nigel, the boss he ran for before going to jail, and giving him information on possible violent acts against the latter, though he is not directly involved.

Rachel Lopez, Addict Reformer

Like Brown, she is committed to her job, and holds a balanced amount of empathy to her cases. However, she too, possesses a cynicism comparable to Brown’s. As much as she wants to steer all her cases back into the world, she knows there are some people who “do not want to be saved”.

As such, she transfers these uncontrollable factors into actions she can “control” – alcohol and sex. Her aggressive drinking and constant want to be dominating in bed can speak of a frustration she has been trying to seek relief for – something she is unable to do at work. However, she is still able to seek relief in the support group sessions she attends towards the end of the novel, which offers an additional option for her to feel better about her job.


Second Chances and Rehabilitation…

One of the aspects I love about Crime Fiction is how many of them end up showing the glimmer of faith and hope in a drastically hopeless situation – especially on first glance. Drama City is set in a place which is portrayed to be an economic and social hellhole – rampant crime, violent gangs, almost hopeless people who do not go above “menial jobs”.

However, the environment is largely juxtaposed with Brown’s drive and motivation to go along the legitimate route. His passion for his area of work (animal welfare) is shown early in the novel, later unraveling to show how much he was willing to put in if given the chance.

He also serves as a second chance to Lopez, telling her that it’s only human to err, but somehow gives her motivation to forgive and heal herself with his own intention to do so. In addition, his genuine love for his daughter (putting aside money for her college fund) also shows a kind of second chance he’s giving to himself – self-forgiveness.

Style & Structure

Pelecanos places a great amount of effort in the street language of the book. Slang is rampant in this story, which could make the issue more relatable, and also injects a sense of reality – the issue is real, not just played out in television dramas.

The style can also be said to encroach into the territory of hardboiled – Brown’s constant standing of his want to go straight despite all the temptation he had to face. There is hardly anything that breaks down the characters, who in turn, deal with all these factors with intense cynicism or physical relief.

For more information on George Pelecanos and this book, click here.

In the meantime

Next-in-Reading will be taking a break in April for two main reasons –

  1. I’ll be doing Camp Nanowrimo, so that will take up quite a bit of time. If you would like to check them out, click here.
  2. Other projects and things that are not this blog are starting to pick up. Therefore, I’m trying to reshuffle a few things so that I don’t get a burnout.

Regardless, thanks for reading Next-in-Reading thus far and I’ll see you all in May!Blanket Fortress Logo


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