George Pelecanos

Three great works of war literature.

Known for gritty novels like Hell to Pay and Drama City as well as his writing for the acclaimed HBO series The Wire, George Pelecanos gives voice to the cops, criminals, and ordinary people trying to make ends meet in his native Washington D.C. area. His new book, The Cut, tells the story of an ex-Marine fresh from Iraq who recovers stolen property from (and for) some unsavory characters. This week, he recommends three books about three very different wars that elucidate universal themes of combat and sacrifice.

Books by George Pelecanos


By Karl Marlantes

“There have been many novels and short story collections written about the Vietnam War, and some of them (The Things They Carried, Fields of Fire) have been excellent. What was missing from the canon was a panoramic novel that covered military politics, combat realism, race and class, and spirituality, etched with sharp dialogue and finely developed characters. Marlantes, a Vietnam veteran, wrote this over a thirty-year span. He did for his war what James Jones accomplished for World War II in From Here to Eternity. From their violent experiences came lasting works of literature.”

No True Glory

By Bing West

“Bing West, another Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, delivers a stirring non-fiction account of the Battle of Fallujah, the 20-month, on-the-ground conflict between an American battalion and Iraqi insurgents. West’s account of the house-to-house fighting and the fierce nature and brotherhood of the Marines is astonishing, as is his stinging take on the role that policy and politics played on their fates. The L.A. Times accurately called West “the grunts’ Homer.” No True Glory is the best helmet-eye view of combat to come out of the Iraq war.”

All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque

“The most famous, and still the finest, anti-war novel. Remarque’s tale of a German trench soldier in World War I is an indictment of all such conflicts and a vivid meditation on betrayal and the loss of youth. Essential.”