Okay, 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, 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?