The Big Blowdown (D.C. Quartet Series #1)

( 2 )

Overview

For Joey Recevo and Pete Karras, two kids from one of Washington's rougher neighborhoods, the easiest work to find after the War is all criminal—-providing a little muscle for a local boss. But Karris is soft on his fellow immigrants, and the boss can't let his mob get soft, so one of his boys gives Karras a painful lesson.

Three years later, it's the same mob that figures big Nick Stefanos's grill needs protection—-and this decision will once again bring Joey and Pete ...

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Overview

For Joey Recevo and Pete Karras, two kids from one of Washington's rougher neighborhoods, the easiest work to find after the War is all criminal—-providing a little muscle for a local boss. But Karris is soft on his fellow immigrants, and the boss can't let his mob get soft, so one of his boys gives Karras a painful lesson.

Three years later, it's the same mob that figures big Nick Stefanos's grill needs protection—-and this decision will once again bring Joey and Pete face-to-face. In this final confrontation, the two of them will find the meaning of friendship, the heart of honor, and the cost of both.

Powerfully told, elegantly wrought, The Big Blowdown is a knockout.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"He is among the finest ten or twelve novelists working in the U.S. today. . . . [a] Balzacian figure so intent upon rendering this nation's whole ramshackle, impossible urban life over the past half-century."

—-James Sallis, from his introduction

"Pelecanos writes hard-boiled prose full of music and pain, like he just might be in charge of saving his characters' souls. The Big Blowdown is his 'Once Upon a Time in D.C.'—-a big book with drive and savagery, and elegance too."

—-Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

"A charged page-turner . . . With stylistic panache and forceful conviction, Pelecanos delivers a darkly powerful story of the American city."

—-Publishers Weekly [starred review]

"Pelecanos's books get into your blood like a shot and a beer after a third shift. Definitely my favorite writer working today."

—-Peter Farrelly, author of Outside Providence

"A snazzy Lincoln Zephyr of a novel."

—-Les Whitten, Washington Post Book World

"Bold and broad-shouldered, a crime epic filled with passionate characters and the gritty life of the street. . . . Pelecanos lifted me from my chair and hurled me right into the mean D.C. streets of the 1950s. Bravo!"

—-T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Blue Hour

"One of those writers whose books I would never miss."

—-Harlan Ellison, author of Mephisto in Onyx

"To miss out on Pelecanos would be criminal."

—-Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

From the Publisher
"He is among the finest ten or twelve novelists working in the U.S. today. . . . [a] Balzacian figure so intent upon rendering this nation's whole ramshackle, impossible urban life over the past half-century."

—-James Sallis, from his introduction

"Pelecanos writes hard-boiled prose full of music and pain, like he just might be in charge of saving his characters' souls. The Big Blowdown is his 'Once Upon a Time in D.C.'—-a big book with drive and savagery, and elegance too."

—-Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

"A charged page-turner . . . With stylistic panache and forceful conviction, Pelecanos delivers a darkly powerful story of the American city."

—-Publishers Weekly [starred review]

"Pelecanos's books get into your blood like a shot and a beer after a third shift. Definitely my favorite writer working today."

—-Peter Farrelly, author of Outside Providence

"A snazzy Lincoln Zephyr of a novel."

—-Les Whitten, Washington Post Book World

"Bold and broad-shouldered, a crime epic filled with passionate characters and the gritty life of the street. . . . Pelecanos lifted me from my chair and hurled me right into the mean D.C. streets of the 1950s. Bravo!"

—-T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Blue Hour

"One of those writers whose books I would never miss."

—-Harlan Ellison, author of Mephisto in Onyx

"To miss out on Pelecanos would be criminal."

—-Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After several well-received Nick Stefanos crime novels, (A Firing Offense; Nick's Trip; Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go), Pelecanos goes for broke with a gangster epic that chronicles 25 turbulent years of immigrant life in post-WWII Washington, D.C. He rises above the in-built predictability of the material to unleash a charged page-turner liberally doused with sex, death and irony. Pete Karras might be a confirmed skirt-chaser, but he's way too soft on the guys he's being paid to shake down. As a penalty for shirking his duty, he gets his legs broken and ends up limping through the streets he loves, working the counter of a diner owned by Nick Stefanos (the father, presumably, of the Nick who stars in Pelecanos's earlier books). When a kid shows up looking for a lost sister who's addicted to heroin and whoring to support her habit, Pete finds himself a cause. Whores, especially well-stacked ones, are being slit open in the city, and Karras's childhood pal, Jimmy Boyle, now a beat cop, is anxious for a collar. Joey Recevo, who grew up on the streets with Karras and Boyle, is still a shakedown artist, and now his next target is Nick's place. There isn't much in the plot that truthfully surprises, but the tale of these three friends and how their loyalties are tested is feverishly alive. Pelecanos lovingly recreates old Washington with small details about soft-drink brands, finned cars and cherished smokes. The ending is a haze of gunsmoke that drifts away to leave a mixed tableau of heroism and futility. With stylistic panache and forceful conviction, Pelecanos delivers a darkly powerful story of the American city. (May)
Library Journal
Set in Washington, D.C., from the 1930s to the 1950s, Pelecanos's (Shoedog, St. Martin's, 1994) latest novel traces a group of boyhood friends as they make their way in the richly detailed Greek and Italian neighborhoods of the city. Peter Karras, a Greek, and his friend Joe Recevo, an Italian, grow up together, serve separately in World War II, and reunite for a time after the war as Joe becomes involved in organized crime in the city. Peter cannot stomach the practice of shaking down immigrants for loan vigorish and is brutally cast out by the gangsters, as Joe stands by. The two friends will inevitably cross paths again. Pelecanos's plotting is superb, as is his use of dialog and sense of place. Innumerable details that are brought in to the story turn out to be essential plot elements further down the line, so that the entire book seems to have been conceived as a unified thought. A fine achievement; recommended for all fiction collections.-David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Kirkus Reviews
Pelecanos follows four mysteries—three about D.C. appliance salesman/barman Nick Stefanos (Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go, 1995, etc.)—with this crossover prequel showing the warmly seamy side of Nick's Grill back in 1949.

Though Nick's Grill provides the turf his heroes can battle over, Nick himself takes a backseat to three even scrappier types. There's Joe Recevo, a bagman for a suave, brutal boss named Burke (a Richard Conte role). There's Peter Karras, Recevo's childhood friend, who followed him into Burke's gang but got carried out on Burke-crippled legs when he drew the line at shaking down an old friend of Karras's hated father. And there's Michael Florek, an innocent who's climbed down from the Pennsylvania hills in search of his sister Lola, a hophead whore now spreading her legs in the nation's capital as a nightmare john stalks the fringes of the story cutting up prostitutes—without causing Karras's friend Jimmy Boyle, a D.C. cop so hot for his gold shield that he's getting hooked on uppers, a single sleepless night. Pelecanos fills his bars with hot, smoky music and his streets with colorful lowlifes, but he lingers so lovingly over the tough childhood memories Karras and Recevo share, their wartime traumas, and their present affairs—even though Karras is respectably married to his first love, he can't keep his hands off census taker Vera Gardner, who worries all the time about the Bomb—that you can tell early on where this story is heading: toward a showdown over Nick's, when Burke picks his place to lead the block in paying protection money, and Nick digs in his heels, and Karras and Recevo face off one last time.

A workmanlike, atmospheric retro noir—Once Upon a Time in America meets The Big Combo. If it's not quite as original or resonant as the Big Book Pelecanos seems to have had in mind, you'll still find yourself feeling everything you're supposed to about the familiar demi-heroic types and their grim postwar world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312242916
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Series: D.C. Quartet Series , #1
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 514,321
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

George P. Pelecanos is the author of eight novels, the including Nick's Trip, The Sweet Forever, King Suckerman, and Shame the Devil. He lives and works in the Washington, D.C., environs.

Biography

Few writers have employed the mean streets of Washington, D.C. as effectively as George Pelecanos, the award-winning author of two acclaimed detective series and several standalone noirs of exceptional quality.

Pelecanos debuted in 1992, with A Firing Offense, a fast-paced crime novel that introduced Nick Stefanos, a Greek-American advertising executive for an electronics chain who is reluctantly drawn into investigative work when a stock boy at his company goes missing. By book's end, Nick has lost his job and applied for his P.I. license, paving the way for further (mis)adventures. Neverthless, the series has proved anything but predictable. Some books move forward in time to reveal Nick's sad descent into alcoholism; others flash back to investigate his family's past—with Nick relegated to cameo appearances in stories that span several generations and feature a cast of interrelated characters. Beloved by readers and critics alike, the Stefanos books cast unsparing light on a city tragically mired in crime, poverty, and racism.

In his Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series, Pelecanos delves further into the racial and cultural divide between white and black. Beginning with 2001's Right as Rain, these novels feature a "salt and pepper" team of ex-cops turned detectives who forge an uneasy friendship as they investigate cases in the blighted heart of D.C. The very model of noir, the stories are steeped in the violence, brutality, and despair of urban life, but the dynamic between the tough but sensitive Strange and his younger, more volatile partner offers a hopeful and humanizing counterbalance.

A distinguishing characteristic of Pelecanos's writing is an inclusion of musical references to create atmosphere, anchor period settings, and develop his characters' personalities. (His 2004 novel Hard Revolution, a prequel to the Strange/Quinn books, was packaged in limited quantity with a CD of '70s soul music.) Pelecanos has also published mysteries and thrillers, short fiction, reviews and essays, and screenplays for film and television—most notably HBO's superb urban procedural The Wire.

Good To Know

In our interview, Pelecanos shared some interesting anecdotes about past gigs:

"I began to work at my father's lunch counter in downtown D. C. when I was 11 years old, the summer after the riots of April 1968. It was the single most influential experience of my life. Everything I've written about since has seeds in that summer."

"Another good job I had was selling women's shoes, for obvious reasons. Writing for a living isn't bad, either. It beats digging ditches or washing dishes. I know, because I've done those things, too."

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Big Blowdown

    This is the first book I have read from George Pelecanos, one of the best crime writers of all time. It is the first book of the D.C. Quartet. The writing style is great and belongs on the same shelf as any Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett novel. If you read this, and I hope you will, keep in mind that the actual novel is much more than what is just written in the summary, which is great because I feel that a lot feels more fresh and unspoiled to me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    VINTAGE PELACANOS

    Taking a step away from his usual, and , tales on the mean streets of present day Washington D.C. , Pelacanos tells a wonderful story of friedships, betrayal and redemption of two friends who go to the War then return. It's one of the best novels i've read in the last two years. The ending is beautiful

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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