Friday, May 9, 2008

Read Lately: Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets by David Simon

  • Over the last couple of years, my taste for reading has narrowed considerably. Where once I would jump from book to book to book, like little stepping stones through life, now I only pick up something to read if I'm not getting my fix from something else. It is a rare book then that will draw me away from the comics, video games, or DVDs that normally fill free time. Homicide turned out to be just such a book.

  • I was initially drawn to Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets because of David Simon's television series, The Wire. I figured that a show that well written would have to come from the author of just as excellent of a book. Sounds like the height of naivety, right? Luckily, David Simon is every bit as good a writer as his shows imply.

  • The book is a chronicle of the homicide detectives of Baltimore city and the cases, politics, and relationships they go through over the course of a year. Police work is at times routine, morbidly humorous, and frighteningly serious. We follow these detectives as they quickly put away the easy cases and as they toil for weeks over cases that rarely seem to come together. We see the friction between detectives with wildly different personalities. We see the camaraderie as they pull together in the face of determined opposition, either from the top brass or from the extreme evils perpetrated on the streets.

  • David Simon puts a very human face on the people that television and the movies, at turns, fetishize and demonize. Although the one year time frame from January to December is arbitrary, it gives an amazing arc for these lives. And as a reflection of real life, not everything ties up neatly at the end of the book. But there is growth and change and a sense of completion, if only for a single moment.

  • I doubt this book will turn me into one of those reality snobs that turns my nose up at mere fiction. Books will always be a escape for me. But much like Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down, I am reminded of the power of pure journalism and eagerly await my next great find.

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