What It Was

( 40 )

Overview

Washington, D.C., 1972. Derek Strange has left the police department and set up shop as a private investigator. His former partner, Frank "Hound Dog" Vaughn, is still on the force. When a young woman comes to Strange asking for his help recovering a cheap ring she claims has sentimental value, the case leads him onto Vaughn's turf, where a local drug addict's been murdered, shot point-blank in his apartment. Soon both men are on the trail of a ruthless killer: Red Fury, so called for his looks and the car his ...

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What It Was

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Overview

Washington, D.C., 1972. Derek Strange has left the police department and set up shop as a private investigator. His former partner, Frank "Hound Dog" Vaughn, is still on the force. When a young woman comes to Strange asking for his help recovering a cheap ring she claims has sentimental value, the case leads him onto Vaughn's turf, where a local drug addict's been murdered, shot point-blank in his apartment. Soon both men are on the trail of a ruthless killer: Red Fury, so called for his looks and the car his girlfriend drives, but a name that fits his personality all too well. Red Fury doesn't have a retirement plan, as Vaughn points out - he doesn't care who he has to cross, or kill, to get what he wants. As the violence escalates and the stakes get higher, Strange and Vaughn know the only way to catch their man is to do it their own way.

Rich with details of place and time - the cars, the music, the clothes - and fueled by non-stop action, this is Pelecanos writing in the hard-boiled noir style that won him his earliest fans and placed him firmly in the ranks of the top crime writers in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of this action-driven novel, a special treat for longtime Pelecanos fans, two old friends, Derek Strange and Nick Stefanos, enjoy a few drinks in a Washington, D.C., bar, where Strange relates a story that has become the stuff of myth on the streets. Flashback to 1972, one of the most volatile and exciting years in the country's history. Strange, who left the D.C. police force after the ‘68 riots, has set up shop as a private investigator. A young woman hires Strange to find a stolen ring, and the case soon leads him to a homicide scene, where he meets up with his former partner, Frank "Hound Dog" Vaughn. Vaughn is on the trail of a killer, Robert Lee Jones, whose street name, Red Fury, fits not just his temperament but his formidable girlfriend's sleek red-over-white Plymouth Fury GT Sport. As Vaughn and Strange work their respective cases, a series of increasingly brazen and violent crimes keep bringing them together. They quickly realize that the only way to take down Red Fury is to do it their own way. Inspired by a real chapter in D.C. history, Pelecanos (The Cut) gives us the rich period detail—the cars, clothes, music, and attitude—of the 1970s. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Jan.)
Janet Maslin
…a sleek, fast-paced crime tale…
—The New York Times
Patrick Anderson
In recent decades, as American crime fiction has reached new heights, a few novels have been outstanding, including Dennis Lehane's Mystic River, Laura Lippman's What the Dead Know and Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series. The five [Derek] Strange novels belong on that list. They're about crime, but, finally, they're a profound meditation on good and evil in this city, mostly in parts of it that many of us pass through often but never really see.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316209540
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 1/23/2012
  • Pages: 246
  • Sales rank: 379,111
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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.

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Price Is Right

    At 99 cents for the Ebook, What It Was became the perfect candidate to become my first non-paper book. As a fan of Pelecanos' previous novels, I enjoyed this one as well, rich as it is in the history of DC and the neighborhoods where much of the heart of the city is. Starting with a stolen ring, and leading to a mass shootout, Pelecanos gives a colorful history of both the police and the people they watched over. Music,cars,relationships between friends, families, and with the police are all well told, with not a little blood being splattered

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    What it Was

    What it Was is another winner by the great George Pelecanos, my favorite writer of all time. Once again, Pelecanos writes about one of his most famous characters, Derek Strange, but like in the excellent Hard Revolution, explores his younger years, in this case 1972, when he was just starting his private investigation job. Very interestingly, the story of What it Was is being told by Strange to Nick Stefanos, another famous Pelecanos creation, while drinking at a bar. Bar stories are a major inspiration for Pelecanos's writing style and it is great that this whole novel is told in that fashion and that the parts in the story that Strange never witnessed may have never happened gives off such a realistic vibe to this hard-boiled, exploitation-filled fantastic new novel by George Pelecanos.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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