Sure, his books are entertaining page turners--suspense, thriller, mystery, whatever label you want to put on them. But Pelecanos's stories stay with you because of his people and places. His characters are realistic portraits that make you think "hey, I know those guys" (or even "I was that guy"). And his depiction of his beloved Washington D.C. leaves no doubt there is a whole other world beyond Capitol Hill. With his fiction, George Pelecanos is crafting a chronicle of his city and our time.
The author of 19 novels, Pelecanos has created several crime series that readers just can't get enough of. His latest novel, THE DOUBLE -- the second in the new Spero Lucas series -- is the hot book on every crime lover's wish list. His writing has won all kinds of awards, including the Raymond Chandler Award (Italy), the Falcon (Japan), the Grand Prix du Roman Noir (France), and the Los Angeles Times Book Award (twice). He has served as a producer/writer for the acclaimed television series "The Wire" and "Treme," writer/co-producer for the WWII mini-series "The Pacific," and producer for several feature films. Novels, screenplays, short stories, essays. A stunning résumé -- and the guy is still going strong.
I could go on and on, but let's just say it's a huge thrill to welcome one of my true creative heroes, George Pelecanos, to the blog today.
Hey, George, thanks for being here today. Let's start here: when did you know you wanted to be a writer? And when did you know you were one?
I knew I wanted to be a writer and filmmaker when I was a little kid. When my first novel was published, when someone actually paid me to do this…that’s when I felt like I could call myself a writer.
Who or what inspired you as a kid or teenager?
Movies and music. I came up watching films in the Golden Age of the 1970s. Westerns, crime films, Blaxploitation, martial-arts pictures…I searched out films in repertory theaters, urban second-run houses, and drive-ins. That’s how I learned story. Music jacked up my imagination.
What creative work most recently inspired you?
LIGHT YEARS, by James Salter. THE SON, by Phillip Meyer.
The most underrated creative (writer, musician, artist) is …
Novelist and musician Willy Vlautin. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Nick Cave lately. THE BOATMAN'S CALL is a masterpiece.
In moments of self doubt, how do you push through?
Have you ever abandoned a creative project?
No, never. I’m stubborn in that way.
Which of your works comes closest to the way you heard/saw it in your head?
What was the best creative advice you ever received?
My agent, Sloan Harris, told me many years ago that I should focus on my work and let him worry about the business aspect of my career. He said that I should pace myself, because it was going to be a long race. He was right, and I’m still in it.
My favorite fictional character or hero is …
The last film I enjoyed was …
ROLLING THUNDER, directed by John Flynn. It’s recently been rereleased on DVD.
The next book on my reading pile is …
SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST, by Wallace Stroby
The book I really should have read by now is …
That Shakespeare guy.
Does The Great American Novel exist (yet)? If so, what is it?
TRUE GRIT and ALL THE KING'S MEN immediately come to mind. Those are just two on a very long list.
What creative work might we be surprised to find on your shelf, iPod, or TiVo?
I like comedy. My favorite television series these past few years was "Eastbound and Down." BLAZING SADDLES and ANCHORMAN are often playing in my house. And I like all kinds of music, if it moves me. Anything from soul to country to Western soundtracks.
In addition to writing, how do you express your creativity?
I punch a wall.
The most difficult thing about the life of a creative is …
Trying to beat time. There is so much I want to do, and the hands on the clock spin faster with each passing year.
A creative work that perfectly captures its setting is:
THE MOVIEGOER, by Walker Percy.
The three best Washington, DC stories are:
I would recommend anything written by Edward P. Jones. He’s the best fiction writer to ever come out of D.C.