George Pelecanos,
Drama City
(Time Warner, 2005)

Drama City -- a title that invokes images of drag queens, attitude and snappy put-downs.

If you are familiar with any of the novels penned by author George Pelecanos, however, then you probably already guessed that that particular image would be incorrect. I previously reviewed the Pelecanos' audiobook Hard Revolution, one of several novels centered around Derek Strange. Drama City introduces new characters not related to the prior books and is set in the recent past.

Lorenzo Brown wasted his youth growing up in the gangs and dealing drugs instead of focusing on his talents that could have led him to excel on the track team in high school and who knows what else. His best friend Nigel (pronounced NIGH-gell, not Ni-jul) was not a good influence. Nigel now leads one of the local gangs himself. Lorenzo "worked" for Nigel until he was incarcerated on drug charges.

Since his release, Lorenzo has changed his ways. He has lost a lot in life, including contact with his daughter, but he doesn't hold any grudges towards Nigel. Lorenzo made his own choices. Now, he is employed as a dogcatcher and plans to stay on the straight and narrow. Lorenzo's parole officer, Rachel Lopez, helps him and several others stay the course despite the fact that she has her own issues.

When altercations with a rival gang start to escalate, the "drama" begins. How will Nigel protect his turf? Will Lorenzo be drawn back in to the world of crime? How will Rachel unintentionally become involved? These questions are answered on the Time Warner audiobook Drama City.

This audiobook is read by actor Chad Coleman. If you have HBO, you would recognize him from The Wire. He has also been on New York Undercover and Law & Order: SVU. I've heard better narration, but Chad does an acceptable job relating the various personalities from Drama City.

When I finished this novel, I thought it was pretty good. I even felt a little emotion towards some of the characters. But I have to admit that I had the same issue with this book as I have had with Pelecanos' prior work. It starts out awful slow. I was listening to the third of five CDs before the book engaged my attention. If you have that kind of patience, and the end justifies the journey, then you might actually enjoy this one.

by Wil Owen
8 October 2005

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