Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon: A+

From the inside flap:
The scene is Baltimore, the year is 1988. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. And at the center of this hurricane of crime is the city’s homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is possible in a deadly world.

The homicide detective is an American icon, the hero of a mythology created by film and television. But until now, no journalist has spent enough time on the killing streets to get behind the myth and show us how a detective really operates. In a book that boils with drama, humor, and haunting truth, David Simon tells a riveting tale about the men who work on the dark side of the American experience.

As a fan Homicide: Life on the Street, I was interested to read the book upon which it was based. I recognized many characters and events, some having undergone significant changes for the TV series, others virtually untouched.

Homicide provides a thorough portrait of the unglamorous working lives of this band of detectives, including long hours, sweltering summers, personality quirks, conflicts, the joys of paperwork, recalcitrant witnesses, crude humor, actually amusing humor, superiors fixated on clearance rates, details of current cases, and one old lady bleating like a crazed goat. I could never in a million years do this job.

The book’s a dense read; dealing with such sheer volume of names and incidents requires attention to keep things straight, and even then some of the detectives are kind of indistinguishable. And it’s a bit dated. Yet, it’s also completely fascinating and well worth reading. I was sorry to see it end.

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  1. I just picked up a copy of this! I used to watch the show all the time, but never knew it was based on a book. Thanks for the review!

  2. Michelle says

    Yay! You’ll have to let me know what you think. 🙂

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