The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).

image-of-woman-watching-the-wire-courtesy-of-locator.jpgOkay, so it is over.  Case closed. After five captivating years, HBO’s lauded series The Wire calls it a wrap. Now what do we do? Aside from chain-watching DVDs of the series (and its excellent Baltimore precursor, Homicide: Life on the Street), we’re seeing a lot of Wire fans in withdrawal are turning to books to prolong the feeling. This is hardly surprising given the series’ strong literary ties. Here are some of our favorite gritty tales of the street from Baltimore and beyond:

  • The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, by David Simon and Edward Burns. It all starts here, with this searing, compassionate account of the hard realities underlying America’s drug culture and its victims. Wire co-creators Simon and Burns refuse to oversimplify an intractable problem twisted up with issues of race, class and unbridled capitalism. See also Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
  • The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos
    This insightful story of an old unsolved crime and its lingering effects on three police is just the latest in a succession of outstanding novels stirring up the murky moral depths on both sides of the law, by a prolific Washington DC author and Wire contributor.
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
    After penning five terrific Boston-based hardboiled mysteries, Wire contributor Lehane had a major breakthrough with this richly textured, haunting psychological thriller about the hidden wellsprings and lasting effects of crime.
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price
    Another accomplished writer recruited into The Wire’s stellar stable, Price’s unflinching, morally-complex crime novels such as Clockers, Freedomland and Samaritan have won him legions of fans. Here, a simple crime in a gentrifying Manhattan neighborhood reveals unanticipated truths about society’s real victims.baltimore_noir_thum.jpg
  • Baltimore Noir, Laura Lippman, editor.
    This entry in Akashic Press’s globe-trotting regional Noir series features a wide array of writers, established and new, taking us for a walk down Baltimore’s mean streets. Wire fans may recall Detective Bunk reading one of Lippman’s popular Baltimore-set Tess Monaghan mysteries in an early episode of the series. Lippman, who is married to series creator David Simon, has also written excellent standalone crime novels such as What the Dead Know. Oh, and she’s appearing at our Ballard Branch on Tuesday, March 18.
  • Red Baker, by Robert Ward.
    Winner of the 1985 Pen West Prize, this gritty novel depicts the downward spiral of Baltimore steelworker befuddled and humiliated as economic recession begins to turn his blue collar town into a forlorn wasteland.
  • Corner Boy, by Herbert Simmons
    This 1957 title about a young inner-city drug dealer has uncanny parallels with the world depicted in The Wire.
  • The King of Methlehem, by Mark Lindquist
    Tacoma drug prosecutor Lindquist depicts the insane, soul-destroying livelihood of tweakers and their random victims in Pierce County’s thriving Methamphetamine trade.
  • At the City’s Edge, by Marcus Sakey
    Iraq war veteran Jason Palmer comes home to find his disintegrating Chicago neighborhood is even less predictable than the streets of Baghdad.
  • Third and Indiana, by Steve Lopez
    Gabriel Santoro, a young soldier in the drug wars mans his post in the Philadelphia badlands, while his mother searches for him before he becomes another chalk outline on the sidewalk.
  • Pipe Dream, by Solomon Jones.
    City Councilman Johnny Podres is gunned down in a Philadelphia crack house, and the dragnet tightens around four luckless pipeheads who struggle to evade their hunters and come to terms with their addictions.
  • Way Past Cool, by Jess Mowry
    “’Gordon! GUN!’ screamed Curtis, diving off his skateboard onto trash-covered concrete.” So begins this harrowing depiction of the life and death of gangstas on the bleak streets of Oakland.
  • Hollywood Station, by Joseph Wambaugh
    Wambaugh’s darkly humorous view of the LAPD bristles with authenticity, as crackheads and tweakers rule the streets and cops grapple with new summits of bureaucracy.
  • Snitch, by Ethan Brown
    An incisive look at the dicey and deceptive use of informants and cooperators in the ‘war on drugs,’ by the author of the gripping gangsta rap expose Queens Reigns Supreme.
  • Random Family, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
    This sensitive and detailed portrait of two Bronx Latinas who become a part of the drug game is the product of ten years of painstaking interviews and research.
  • The Wire: Truth Be Told, by Rafael Alvarez. Here is an in-depth look at the series and its creators, as well as a handy episode guide for the first three seasons.

What books or authors remind you of The Wire, or vice-versa?

4 thoughts on “The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).”

  1. Excellent post, David! Great reading suggestions for fans of The Wire. I am so glad that you started the series–I told you that it was amazing!! Now I just need to catch up and watch the last couple of seasons…

  2. Try DRAMA CITY by George Pelecanos (yes, The Night Gardener is very good too, as are ALL of his books). I’m singling out this particular title of the man’s work because in many ways, the main progenitor of the story in a number of ways is a precursor to the Dennis “Cutty” Wize character from The Wire.

    Anyone who held the show in high esteem would also be pleased to discover the works fo the following authors and or titles:

    Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
    Generation Kill by Evan Wright
    Night Dogs by Kent Anderson
    Dia De Los Muertos by Kent Harrington
    Give Us A Kiss by Daniel Woodrell
    Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker
    Howard Street by Nathan C. Heard
    GOT by D
    The Guards by Ken Bruen
    Smonk by Tom Franklin
    Deadwood by Pete Dexter
    Miami Blues by Charles Willeford
    The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow
    I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond

    No a single dud in the above list and again, any one into The Wire WILL appreciate all these authors have to offer.

  3. Some excellent suggestions, Peter, and great gritty reads. I’ll have to snag at least a few of those for a forthcoming list on good reads for fans of Deadwood!

  4. One more addition: Felicia Pearson, who plays “Snoop” on the show and was discovered by Michael K. Williams (“Omar”) in a Baltimore bar, has written a memoir called Grace After Midnight. I just started it, and it’s pretty interesting.

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