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George Pelecanos has become the fiction chronicler of his Washington D.C. While other writers often use it as a setting to explore politics, he looks at the community and people struggling with life and society. Owning Up is a collection of of four long short stories portraying one part of the town interacting with another.

"The Amusement Machine" comes closest to a traditional crime story, introducing us to Ira Rubin, a white middle class jewish ne'er do well and Jerrod Williams, a black aspiring actor, who meet in a book club at The D.C. Jail. The reunite as extras on a film set where Jerrod sees a step toward his dream, but where Ira notices a score. His crime implicates Jerrod and puts a dangerous man on them. As the story moves on, it become less conventional, having us fear more for their future than their lives.

"The No Knock" follows the effect of a no knock warrant on an upper middle class family when the police search for the eldest son. Most of it is seen through the family patriarch, a successful journalist, searching for an unobtainable revenge that leads to an emotional and mental decline. Pelecanos demonstrates his ability to turn down the volume on the circumstance, without getting over dramatic or preachy on the issue he's examining. He portrays believable human beings with a system that doesn't account for a human factor. He only serves up statistics and history at the end, allowing his fiction to give power to the facts.

"Knickerbocker" deals a waitress whose pursuit in being a writer finds a connection between a race riot and the tragic collapse of of a movie theater through two people she interviews who lived through the city's prohibition era. It becomes a meditation os the past meeting present and how we survive history. The big reveal delivers as much of an emotional catharsis as it does surprise.

The collection ends with the title story, a coming of age tale set in the early seventies. Nikos, a teen who works at a discount appliance and mattress store, goes along with a coworker he admires to help him get some records back for the man's shady friend's girlfriend. The placement of this story works perfectly, since the previous stories have often touched on what one bad decision can lead to.

George Pelecanos not only has a vast amount of knowledge, he knows how to apply it in his writing. Whether is be certain music genres or the comparison of of a 73's Marquis to other cars, he uses these details to reveal character and create attachment to his people. The street names feels like demarcation marks when uttered. "Owning Up" uses a historic hostage/terrorist event I had never heard of in a way not only to educate, but uses it for the end of Nikos' character arc in a small poignant manner.

All of Owning Up's stories deal with the interaction of races and classes. Most of them deal in the past before we became so culturally segregated. He often portrays the middle class whites as having with troubles with the law, while their working class counterparts of color work for the life they take for granted. In Pelecanos' D.C. there's room for all.


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