Saturday, August 14, 2021

51. Shoedog by George Pelecanos

Found in one of the many free little libraries in the residential stretches that grid Toronto.  While I love living in a bilingual world, it is nice to have only english books to choose from. On the street I was staying there were three free book boxes alone (although it was the longest block in Toronto).I've read quite a few of George pelecanos novels and always enjoy him. However I feel I have a pretty good sense of his style and I'm not always interested in checking any of his newer books out. I am not sure what compelled me to take this one but I'm glad that I did.

This is a standalone crime novel about a young drifter who gets picked up by an older drifter slash criminal. At first it seems like they're just going to ride together to the South but then the older guy has to stop off to pick up some money. The place they stop at it's a big well secured house in the middle of nowhere outside of Washington DC with a big doberman in acage. Instead of the money the two of them get caught up in a double heist of liquor stores in Washington.

There is a secondary character, an African American shoe salesman in DC who also participates in the heist. The Narrative goes back and forth between the initial Drifter and the shoe salesman (who has the nickname Shoedog, thus the title).  What was cool about this book is that it really was a self-contained heist novel.  There are even parts that felt a lot like a Richard Stark book and I wonder if Pelecanos' had that in mind when he wrote it. However there's a lot more introspection and feelings about the characters than would ever occur in a Parker novel.

The drifter character felt very much like a young white male fantasy of the criminal life. He comes from a lower middle-class background with a mother dead of alchoholism and a disciplinarian, unfeeling father..   instead of going to a good college as his father had hoped he joins the military where he learns how to kick ass and shoot guns and then spends much of his life travelling all over America and the world working in restaurant and having sex and sometimes cool conflicts. Where the novel begins he is as aimless as ever and maybe looking for something but all that really seems to get him off is that buzz when he starts to do something Criminal. So the job is very appealing to him.

The shoe dog character on the other hand is more grounded. He's a Black guy who is one of the best salesmen at the shoe store and augments his income by doing heist jobs on the side and other crimes. He's basically an honourable fellow and you want him to succeed.

It's a fast-paced easily digestible crime novel with some cliches that were well portrayed and wrapped up in a unique enough exterior that they were never annoying. I would also add that if you are a car person there are several a detailed descriptions of very specific old style hot rods that you might find enjoyable. This is a great read for the summer.

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