Book Review: What It Was by George Pelecanos

What It Was
George Pelecanos
Reagan Arthur Books, January 2012
ISBN 9780316209540
Trade Paperback

It’s the summer of 1972 and the place is Washington, D.C. It’s the time of 8-tracks, big afro hair, high heels on men’s shoes, incense, soul and funk, bell bottom pants and rayon shirts. It’s the era of muscle cars and drugs and money and prostitutes. Four years after the D.C. riots and shortly before Watergate. It’s what it was and the story of a man starting out in the private investigator business, and a bad man wanting to make a name for himself.

Derek Strange, ex-police officer and now private eye, is hired by a woman wanting to retrieve a lost ring. Robert Lee Jones, aka ‘Red Fury’ has killed a local drug dealer and is about to go on a murder spree to become a man with an infamous legacy. Strange’s former partner, veteran Frank Vaughn has caught the case and is soon on the trail of Red. Enter hitmen from the mob also looking for the killer of the dealer. As Red and his associates plan to make their getaway forces from all sides are closing in.

If you’re a Pelecanos fan you know his stories are full of culture, music, food, drugs, guns, and straight, no nonsense dialogue and action. What It Was recalls a time when America had experienced changes and was heading for more. The good guys aren’t all the time good and the bad guys are a product of their place and time. It’s a quick read but another fine product from the mind of Pelecanos.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, December 2011.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.