Pelecanos, George. A Firing Offense.

NY: Little, Brown, 1992.

Pelecanos is considered one of the top crime writers in English these days, and this unsettling story is where he started. Thirty-year-old Nick Stefanos, a Washington, D.C., native, is a natural salesman. Not the best — that would be his friend, Johnny McGinnis — but still very good, and by the late 1980s he’s worked his way up to Advertising Director of the Nutty Nathan’s retail electronics empire.

In many ways, he’s still trying to live the lifestyle of a twenty-year-old, boozing heavily and doing drugs at almost every opportunity. The world really hasn’t changed much for him since the ’60s.

He’s just going from day to day when he’s contacted by the grandfather of a teenager who used to work in the Nathan’s warehouse, and whom Nick had casually befriended. The kid is now missing and can Nick possibly help find him? Well, Nick’s no kind of detective but he does have a knack for locating people, so he agrees. Anyway, he can use the money. And that’s the beginning of an adventure that not everyone we meet along the way will survive.

I don’t know whether Pelecanos himself had a background in retail before he became a writer, but he certainly knows that rather scummy world and paints it in vivid (not to say bilious) colors. According to him, all the dishonesty and scams you suspected salesmen routinely resort to in pursuit of a commission are true. It’s a job with long hours plus varicose veins from standing all day on cement floors, leavened by cocaine and endless malt liquor. The author certainly knows Washington, though, and the city itself is a major player in the story. And Nick is a fascinating character who undergoes a transformation in the course of events that he himself could not have predicted. There are good reasons this author is presently at the top of the heap.

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Published in: on 17 November 2016 at 5:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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