Benny Jay: Mr. P

March 12th, 2019

This all started about seven years ago, when, by chance, I read a Janet Maslin review of The Turnaround, a novel by George Pelecanos.

I’d never heard of Pelecanos. But according to Maslin, The Turnaround was “a hard-hitting urban parable” about six teenage boys who get caught up in “an ugly race baiting incident from 1972.”

That sounded like something I had to read, so I bought the book and it was, like–holy shit, where have you been Pelecanos! I mean, it was like he wrote this book just for me.

It was page after page of nailbiting action with realistic dialogue and gritty Washington, D.C. settings. Also, pithy asides and observations about blacks and whites and movies and cars and music, especially music. Also, sex. Hey, man, I like a good sex scene as much as anyone else.

After that, I was hooked on Pelecanos. I read the books he’d already written–King Suckerman, Right as Rain, Hard Revolution, etc. Then I started reading the new ones he was churning out like What It Was and The Cut and The Way Home.

I think Hard Revolution–set during the riots of `68–is my all-time favorite. Though, now that I think about it, King Suckerman‘s pretty freaking good.

Anyway, one day not long ago I was chatting with Josh, my old high school pal who now lives in Washington, D.C.

And he asked if I could recommend a book for Ben, his teenage son.

georgepelandben

George meets Ben…

 

“What’s he into?” I asked.

“Rap. Skateboarding. Washington, D.C…”

“You might want to try the novels of George Pelecanos.”

“Who?”

So I launched into my refrain about how a book by Pelecanos has it all–Washington, race, music, action, sex. You name it!

To Josh’s everlasting credit, he went out and bought several Pelecanos novels for his son.

And now, guess what? Josh and Ben are hooked on Pelecanos. They’ve read a bunch of his books. If this keeps up, Pelecanos’s gonna have to cut me in on some of the royalties.

Anyway, that’s where the story stood until a few days ago when I got a packet in the mail from Josh. In it was a copy of Martini Shot, Pelecanos’ latest book.

Turns out that Josh and Ben attended a reading Pelecanos gave at a local book store in D.C.

And, dig this, they got him to inscribe the book they bought for me.

“To Benny Jay–I love The Third City. George Pelecanos.”

Okay, he didn’t really mention TTC. Maybe next time.

Thank you, Josh. That’s one of the nicest things one old friend can do for another.

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