I want to be Spero Lucas. Let’s just get that out of the way right here and now. Spero is the main character in George Pelecanos’ new novel, “The Cut.” Pelecanos is a writer of “The Wire” and “Treme” which need no new accolades here. Simply put, if you aren’t a fan of those shows, I’m not even sure why I’m friends with you.
Let me tell you about Spero. He’s 29 years old. He’s a recent Iraqi and Afghanistan war veteran who grew up and lives in D.C. Pelecanos describes him as good-looking, in perfect physical condition, witty, and intelligent. He’s kind to poor kids in his neighborhood. He rides his bike all over the city. Enjoys food of all kinds, especially the joints that you have to be a local to know about. He is a lover of all sorts of music, and impresses others with his command of obscure musicians and bands. He’s a private investigator, working for himself, using only an iPhone and a Moleskine notebook. And the women love him. It took him about 5 minutes to pick up the hot paralegal in an attorney’s office. He knows how to fire several weapons, but can also kill a man with his bare hands. My admiration of this fictional character reached a peak when he takes his hot girlfriend to Busboys and Poets in D.C. (V Street location, of course) and buys her a book. What book does he buy her? “Lean on Pete.” A reference to an obscure book that I just finished raving about on this blog! How great is that?!? I’m quitting my job and buying a bike (already have the iPhone and Moleskine notebook). Anyone need any crimes solved?
This was my first Pelecanos novel. I’ve shied away from mysteries in the past few years. I really shouldn’t have because I used to enjoy them. Maybe I felt like non-fiction was more serious reading. Silly me. Recent discussions with certain individuals I admire have given me new appreciation for the technique of putting together an enjoyable mystery novel, and in “The Cut,” Pelecanos has developed an exciting plot and introduced a new and likely recurring character.
Pelecanos isn’t just writing a mystery either. He’s writing about D.C., albeit a different D.C. than you see when you go for the tour or when you watch “The West Wing.” I’m not as familiar with this part of the city, so I was happy that I was reading it on the iPad, so I could keep switching between the Kindle app and the Google Maps StreetView app to look at the locations he was describing. It was great fun to eyeball the very real and accurately described places and settings featured in the book. I can’t wait to check out some of the bars Spero visits.
A few of the reviews of “The Cut” were less than flattering, noting the plot wrapped up too quickly (it did), that Spero wasn’t thoroughly developed (he wasn’t), and that the book was too short (so what?). Mostly I would attribute this to the fact that this book was like the pilot for a new TV show. It gave you just enough to keep coming back for the next episode. We discovered just enough about Spero to know that we like him and to know that there is more to learn about him.
Lately I’ve been thinking that one day I might like to try to write a book. I don’t know if it is something I would be good at, but I feel it would be an endeavor worth trying. One of the reasons I think it would be fun is that you get to invent characters that you wish you could be. You can recreate yourself as an entirely different person. Pelecanos must have done this with Spero, and I bet he had a blast writing this. Who wouldn’t want to be Spero? And that’s what made reading this book so much fun.
Thanks for reading.