Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the Shelf.

I know that people don’t really come here to read my thoughts on books (Why do people come here? Do people come here?) but I wanted to mention David Simon’s masterpiece of the true crime genre, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
Some folks may know David Simon as the creator of The Wire, a television show that everyone loves and I’m sure is great but I just haven’t gotten around to watching yet. I will, I promise. I just need to find some time.
Back in 1988 Mr. Simon spent a full year shadowing the Baltimore Homicide Department. His book is a full account of what he saw and what he learned. It would go on to be the basis for the excellent television show, Homicide: Life on the Street and many of the stories from book also play out in The Wire (or so I’m told).
David Simon was a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun for over a decade, so his book shouldn’t be such a surprise. But Mr. Simon’s ability to not only tell a story but provide a deeper understanding into what it means to “speak for the dead on the killing streets” is what truly elevates his book.
Homicide is a long book and I find myself reading through it too quickly. My only consolation that I have Mr. Simon’s other book, The Corner, to look forward to next. In this book Mr. Simon employed the same strategy of observing a year in the life, but this time he spent a year getting to know the people and the stories on a busy drug dealing corner in West Baltimore. I can’t wait.

While I’m at it, I’m also reading a great history of the mid-1990’s conflict in Chechnya. I found it fairly difficult to find much written on the subject, although this shouldn’t be a huge surprise with the way Russia treats journalists. Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus by Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal, while unfortunately named is a fascinating account of both the military action in and around Grozny but also an overview of Chechen history from the 1700s on.
It’s worth taking a look at if you’re interested in a bit of history that we don’t often get to hear too much about.

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