“Castaneda's page-turner, told with easygoing charm and great skill, is an unstinting unveiling of who got away with what and when and how Castaneda followed the action and found himself.” Booklist
“An engrossing portrait . . . . Castaneda writes movingly of the unlikely wellsprings of solidarity and hope in communities that society has written off.” Publishers Weekly
“Castaneda offers himself not just as chronicler but as a participant in the larger urban blight and recovery story of DC itself . . . Elegant . . . Scathingly honest . . . A powerful, propulsive, narcotically fueled cri de couer for an entire city.” Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight, in BookForum
“Dramatic . . . Explosive and informed by good reporting.” Kirkus Reviews
“It's hard to find a better perspective . . . . This work is a page-turner. Recommended for readers especially interested in the war on drugs or DC and for fans of David Carr's The Night of the Gun or HBO's The Wire.” Library Journal
“Castaneda was an addict whose double life would have to come crumbling down. That it did, and S Street Rising chronicles his ordeal and recovery--he's been clean for more than two decades now--while also portraying the nation's capital under the onslaught of an epidemic, drug-fueled crime wave.” Penthouse Magazine
“A tense, unflinching chronicle . . . S Street Rising is a gritty and utterly convincing street-level portrait of a dark chapter in the city's history, reflected in the dark mirror of Castaneda's own addiction.” Washington Post
“A gritty and utterly convincing street-level portrait of the 1990s.” Washington Post, "50 Notable Works of Nonfiction"
An illumination of the Washington, D.C., crack epidemic.As a reporter for theWashington Post, Castaneda undoubtedly learned that it can be trouble when a journalist gets too close to his story and even more trouble when the journalistbecomesthe story.Yet the author, drawing heavily on his experience and reportage in the crack and murder capital of the country, compounds those troubles by pacing his multiple narratives as if writing a novel (re-creating the thoughts of characters in situations he wasn’t even around to witness) or TV series. The most dramatic narrative is the author’s own story, that of someone who was already using crack when he was brought from Los Angeles to thePostto cover crime and quickly escalated into full-blown addiction as the drug became both his beat and his life.The paper sent him to rehab, and he dedicated himself to recovery (after one serious slip); that part of the narrative pretty much disappears halfway through the book.The second narrative concerns the rise and fall of the city’s homicide chief, caught in the political machinations of Mayor Marion Berry’s regime, who became not only a major source for the reporter, but also a closer friend than the subject of a journalist’s coverage should be. Such a close relationship had consequences for both men.The third narrative concerns a minister who built a street church in the middle of a crack-dealing neighborhood and found the head dealer to be a guardian angel protecting the church—“a lovable teddy bear,” or, as one neighbor put it, “the notorious, lovable godfather.” Castaneda interweaves that narrative with the immediacy of the others, though he later explains that he experienced none of this firsthand but only learned of the preacher and the dealer after the fact.The subject matter is explosive and informed by good reporting, but the various narrative lines never really tie together, and the novelistic approach undermines the journalism.
Former Washington Post reporter Castaneda takes on DC's (and his own) crack era in this memoir/social history. It's hard to find a better perspective: Castaneda writes as a recovering crack addict as well as the Post's crime reporter from 1989 until 1997, when DC was still known as the Murder Capital. (He covered local court issues, police brutality in particular, until 2011.) The author follows several stories: his own as he struggles to balance addiction, and eventually recovery, with his career; that of The New Community Church in the war-torn neighborhood where Castaneda once purchased drugs; and that of Lou Hennessy, onetime DC police commander of homicide. It's a story about healing and redemption as much as it is about the enormous toll this powerfully addictive drug took on the city, but none of these people or places emerge unscathed. VERDICT Castaneda puts his years of reportorial writing to quality use—this work is a page-turner. Recommended for readers especially interested in the war on drugs or DC and for fans of David Carr's The Night of the Gun or HBO's The Wire. [See the Q&A with Castaneda, p. 112.—Ed.]—Molly McArdle, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst