The Sweet Forever (D.C. Quartet Series #3)

The Sweet Forever (D.C. Quartet Series #3)

5.0 3
by George Pelecanos

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It's March madness. And the college boys are playing basketball on TV. But on the streets of D.C., the homeboys are dealing, dissing, dying. From behind plate glass, with an 80s backbeat pounding in his brain, Marcus Clay watches it all happen, and prays that he can make a go with his downtown record store. Then a car comes careening down U Street. And what Marcus


It's March madness. And the college boys are playing basketball on TV. But on the streets of D.C., the homeboys are dealing, dissing, dying. From behind plate glass, with an 80s backbeat pounding in his brain, Marcus Clay watches it all happen, and prays that he can make a go with his downtown record store. Then a car comes careening down U Street. And what Marcus sees next will plunge him into the middle of a war.

A drug runner is decapitated in the crash. A bystander—a white boy desperate to buy a woman's love—snatches a bag of cash from the wreck. And a prince of crime wants it back. . . . For Marcus's buddy, Dimitri Karras, the mayhem is a chance to make a score. For a pair of dirty cops it's a chance to get free. And for dozens of lives swept up into the maelstrom, it's just another springtime in America's capital, where the game is played for keeps . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pelecanos (King Suckerman) lays a fair claim to be the Zola of Washington, D.C. The latest of his thrillers, which use a recurring cast of ordinary Washingtonians to chronicle the city's decline since WWII, brings us to 1986, when Vietnam vet Marcus Clay, founder of ("African American Owned and Operated") Real Right Records, and his employee and best friend, aging Greek-American cokehead Dmitri Karras, witness a grisly car accident outside Clay's newest record shop on the struggling U Street strip.

A suburbanite, in town to score blow from Karras, steals $25,000 in drug money from the car and inadvertently starts a race between local hoods and dirty cops -- to get the money back and avenge the theft -- that jeopardizes the neighborhood's fragile peace. As always, the intertwined fates of black and white Washington inform the fates of Pelecanos' individual characters, and if he cooks up saccharine subplots for his protagonists, the city's large and small tragedies -- its crack epidemic, the overdose of local hero Len Bias, the disgrace of home rule, the withering of D.C.'s last independent music scenes, the ugly segregation of the place -- cut the sweetness and haunt the compelling main plot from beginning to end. With characters for whom the White House is just a tourist attraction, Pelecanos is that rare bird among Washington novelists, a writer who loves and knows the city he writes about. (Publisher's Weekly best book of 1998)

Library Journal
Dirty cops, drug money, racism, violence, and sex all mar 1980s Washington, D.C. When a neighborhood drug dealer's collection man crashes and burns in front of Marcus Clay's record store, an opportunist makes off with the guy's sack of cash. The drug dealer and associates will try anything to get the money back, including threatening Clay and employees, one of whom, coke-happy Dimitri Karras (last seen in King Suckerman, LJ 8/97), knows what happened to the cash. Lots of street action, adroit juxtapositioning of good and evil characters, and raw action make this a good choice for larger collections.
NY Times Book Review
Set in . . .1986. . .and picking up the adventures of those best friends Marcus Clay and Dimitri Karras. . .The Sweet Forever. . .captures with an astonishing sense of immediacy that defining moment in the breakdown of a neighborhood when good and evil have an equal chance to win the field.
Kirkus Reviews
Marcus Clay and Dimitri Karras want very much to mind their own business, but that's not the way their karmas crumble, as Pelecanos makes clear in this rousing, raunchy sequel to King Suckerman (1997).

The business these two friends want to mind is a small but growing retail record operation, four stores in and around Washington, D.C (actually, it's Clay's business, and Karras, still flush with a legacy from his mother, is content to work for his longtime friend). It's the in-town store that's giving them headaches. Located at the epicenter of D.C.'s cocaine ghetto, it looks out onto a vista fraught with mean-street nastiness, some of which is downright dangerous even just to witness. On a blustery winter night, a case in point involves the pilfering of a pillowcase full of money scheduled for delivery to Tyrell Cleveland, the area's CEO of drug enterprises. This multitalented leader of the new hedonists is as heartless as he is entrepreneurial. To mess with him is to invite serious hurt, leading as often as not to shortness of life, terms of doing business that conditions Clay and Karras can accept as sufficient deterrent to their getting involved. On the other hand, two 12-year-old kids have just been gunned down by Cleveland cohorts, and neither Clay nor Karras can happily accept that, doing so is neither in their genes nor in those bothersome karmas, and so the stage is set for show-downs and shoot-outs.

You can see them coming a mile away, but it's terrifically satisfying to watch how it all works out. A cast, mostly black, that's treated painstakingly, so even the bad guys have dimension and believability (the good guys have character and dignity). Still, the violence-averse should probably give a pass to this otherwise almost compulsively readable entertainer.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
D.C. Quartet Series, #3
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The first time Richard Tutt made it with a suspect's girlfriend, he realized that there was nothing, nothing at all, that a man in his position couldn't do. He'd gotten some just that morning—a high-assed young thing by the name of Rowanda—and the feeling had stuck with him right into this bright, biting afternoon.

Tutt made a left onto U Street, eye-swept the beat that he knew he owned.

The Power. It was a cop thing, but not an across-the-board cop thing. The desk jockeys never had it. The homicide dicks were too tortured to have it. A few of the boys in Prostitution and Perversions had it, but only some of the time. The beat cops, the ones who really knew how to walk it, had it all the time.

Tutt dug the free-fall feeling that came with the Power. He even looked forward to the looks he got—the looks of fear and hatred and, yeah, the looks of respect—when he stepped out of his cruiser. He'd been a cop for five years, always in blue, and always out on the street. You could keep your promotions and gold shields. Tutt liked the fit of the uniform. He knew he'd never wear anything else.

Tutt turned to his partner, Kevin Murphy, who was staring through the windshield, one thumb stroking his black mustache. Murphy's head throbbed with a dull ache; he hoped for a quiet day. He'd fallen asleep on the couch with a beer in his hand the night before, trying to make out the blurred images on the screen of his new television set. Murphy's nights had been ending this way for some time.

"Let me ask you something, Murphy."

Murphy exhaled slowly. "Go ahead."

"Got a man-woman kinda question foryou."

"All right."

"Had me a little brown sugar action this morning, on the way in to work?"

Tutt, bragging double, not just letting Murphy know he had gotten some pussy, letting him know it had been some good black pussy in the bargain.

"Oh, yeah?"

Tutt smiled. "Yeah. Lady took a long ride on that white pony."

Murphy thinking, Yeah, 'cause you promised some poor suckers' girlfriend that you wouldn't bust her old man if she gave a little up.

"Have a good time?" said Murphy.

"Damn straight."

"Good for you, man. So what was that question?"

"Right. So I'm playin' with her privates, see, got my finger right on the trigger."


"I haven't put it in her yet, but even without that, her elevator's gettin' ready to shoot right to the penthouse suite, you know what I mean? Just about then, the bitch looks up at me and goes, in this real whiny voice, 'Pleeeease?'"


"My question is, what was she askin' for? I mean, please what? Please do? Please don't? Please have a bigger dick? I was wonderin' if this was something, you know, the sisters say all the time, something I just don't know about."

"I wouldn't know, Tutt. I only been with one sister for the last ten years. Had some sisters before I was married, understand, but not every single sister. So I can't speak for all of them. And I sure couldn't tell you what this particular sister was lookin' for when she asked you the question."

"I'm bettin' she was begging for it. Had to be 'Please do.'"

"Think so, huh?"

Tutt drove the blue-and-white east on U. Black Washington's once grand street was ragged, near defeated by crime and indifference and Metro's Green Line construction, which had blighted the area for years. They passed the Republic theater, dark now, where Kevin Murphy had seen classics like J.D.'s Revenge and King Suckerman and a bad-ass prison picture called Short Eyes back in '77. Flyers touting the mayor's upcoming reelection effort were stapled to the telephone poles, his increasingly bloated image distorted in a haze of dust kicked up by jackhammers and trucks. Murphy's eyes followed a young dealer stepping out of a drug car parked at the curb.



"Don't get this wrong, partner . . ."

Don't get this wrong, huh? Here we go.

". . . but all I kept thinking of when I was hammering this black chick is that y'all, what I mean is you brothers, y'all fuck in a furious fuckin' way, you know what I mean?"

"That so. How'd you arrive at that conclusion?"

"Well, okay, here's what got me started. I was watchin' this porno flick the other night. My brother-in-law, the art director, brought it over. All-black cast; the star of the flick was hung like a donkey, you know what I'm sayin'? Anyway, this brother in the movie, he was just wailing on this punch, up on one arm, doing some high-ass, violent-ass thrusts."

"Man was goin' at it."

"Like I've never seen. And the way this girl was screaming, now, I shouldn't have been surprised. I mean, I've been with some black women, man. So you know that I've heard some screams."

"Oh, I know."

"But watchin' that porno tape, it made me think of that old expression."

"What expression's that?"

"'I thought I'd fucked a nigger'"—Tutt grinned—"'till I saw a nigger fuck a nigger.'" Tutt air-elbowed Murphy, cackled in that high-pitched way of his. "You ever hear that?"

Murphy stared at the Twenty-third Psalm card he had taped to the dash. He made his lips turn up into a smile. "Nah, King, I never did."

Tutt breathed out in relief. Murphy called him "King"—Tutt's nickname from the Twinbrook neighborhood, where he'd come up—meant everything between them was okay. Course, Tutt knew it would be okay. Civilians didn't understand about the shell cops had, the things that could be said between partners. You could use any goddamn words you wanted to use in fun, because those were just words, and there was only one real thing that mattered, one serious task at hand, and that was to watch your partner's back out in the world and know that he would do the same. Sensitivity was for the high-forehead crowd, the ones standing comfortably behind that last line of defense, skinny-armed liberals and ACL-Jews. Men knew that words were just words and only action counted—period.

"Hey, Murphy. I was just shittin' around. Hey, you all right?"

"I was thinking on somethin'," said Murphy. "That's all."

I was thinking of my wife . . . my mother, and my brother, and my father. Niggers, all of them. I was thinkin' on how I betray them every day, listening to those filthy words coming out of your fat redneck mouth, doin' nothing, saying nothing to shut you up. . . .

"Hey, Murphy. No offense, right?"

"Nah, Tutt," said Kevin Murphy. "None taken."

Murphy noticed the kid wearing the Raiders jacket, maybe ten or eleven, standing outside of Medger's Liquors at 12th and U. He had seen the kid the last year or so, hanging on that corner, often during school hours. No one had the time to bother much with truants anymore, but Murphy wondered what the kid was up to, if he was a runner or a baby foot soldier or just checking out the hustler's map, prepping himself for a lifetime of nothing.

"There's your boy," said Tutt. "Same as always. One of these days we ought to stop, see what his story is."

"I expect we'll be crossing paths someday. When he grows up some."

"Yeah, they all grow up, don't they? Grow up and fuck up."

Meet the Author

George Pelecanos is the author of several highly praised and bestselling novels, including The Cut, What It Was, The Way Home, The Turnaround, and The Night Gardener. He is also an independent-film producer, an essayist, and the recipient of numerous international writing awards. He was a producer and Emmy-nominated writer for The Wire and currently writes for the acclaimed HBO series Treme. He lives in Maryland.

Brief Biography

Silver Spring, Maryland
Date of Birth:
February 18, 1957
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
B.A., University of Maryland at College Park, 1980

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The Sweet Forever: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
Before I write my review, let me just say that George Pelecanos is my favorite writer of all time. Along with Richard Price and Dennis Lehane, Pelecanos writes very sophisticated crime thrillers. Unlike other crime novels, I find great messages within the normal twists and turns of most crime novels. I never like to give away too much plot for my reviews so I'll just say this, as in all of his books, is full of violence, references to awesome movies and music, and some of the greatest dialogue ever written. This is an awesome book as well as all of the other books in Pelecanos' D.C. Quartet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It shows about how drugs and the wrong crowd can get you into trouble. It also shows that not every body will have a way out. I could not put the book down. If you are interested in how some parallles of city living can be then you should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Incredible book. I read it in two days and would have finished earlier if it wasn't for school and work. George P. Pelecanos has a great talent for creating wonderfully realistic stories and incredibly real characters. This book is action packed and brings out many emotions. You can easily relate to these characters and feel like you know them. Also being a fellow Greek, I love the little Greek things he includes in the books. It showcases some of the Greek culture, esp. strong family ties.