GEORGE P. PELECANOS – Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go. Nick Stefanos #3. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1995. Back Bay Books, trade paperback,July 2011.

   I started the last Stefanos book, Shoedog, but couldn’t get into it and gave up. I’d forgotten why, though, so I gave this one a shot because of the title.

   Nick Stefanos is a PI and pat-time bartender in Washington, DC, He’s an alcoholic, too. One night he ends up down by the river at the end of M Street, passed out in the weeds. He comes to early the next morning,just enough and in time to hear a black man and a white man execute someone, who turns out to be a young black man.

   It’s not something he can forget or let alone, and he begins a journey that ends with more death, and leaves a trail of empty bottles and shattered lies.

   A few things come quickly about this one. First, it’s a great title. Second, I don’t like “heroes” who are as generally screwed up in the head as Stefanos is. Third, Pelecanos writes a mean, effective, dark brand of prose.

   All of which says, I guess, that he is a very good writer, but I don’t like what and who he writes about. I got awfully tit=red of the gulp-by-gulp, bottle-by-bottle accounts of Stefanos’s drinking, and of his repeated pissing in the street.

   I never had much of a taste for noir fiction, and if this isn’t that, it’s close. Nasty stuff, well done, and I think I’ll pass on the next course, thank you very much.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #19, May 1995.

      The Nick Stefanos series —

A Firing Offens.St. Martin’s 1992.
Nick’s Trip.St. Martin’s 1993.
Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go. St. Martin’s 1995.
The Big Blowdown. St. Martin’s 1996. (*)
King Suckerman. Little 1997. (*)
The Sweet Forever (1998) (*)
Shame the Devil. Dennis McMillan 1999.
Soul Circus (2003) (*)
Hard Revolution (2004) (*)

   (*) May be only cameo appearances.