A Firing Offense

A Firing Offense

by George Pelecanos

When a stockroom boy hooked on speed metal and the fast life disappears, Nick has to help find him.

  • Series: Nick Stefanos
  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.76
  • Pages: 216
  • Publish Date: 1999 by Serpent's Tail/Five Star
  • Isbn10: 1852427159
  • Isbn13: 9781852427153

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Washington DC is as much a character in the book as Nick Stefanos and the pop culture references, mostly the music, paint a good picture of the time the story was occurring. The music references lead me to believe George Pelecanos might have run into each other if I'd been going to shows in DC bars in the 90's. Washington DC is as much a character in Pelecanos' books as New York is in Lawrence Block's.

So when he gets a call asking for help from the grandfather of a young man named Jimmy that worked at Nathans who has gone missing, Nick takes the opportunity to do a little bullshitting that allows him to get back out on the sales floor of one of their stores while regularly slipping off to hunt for Jimmy. Whether its giving us the lowdown on the shady sales tricks the electronics salesmen engage in or whats happening in early 90s Washington DC music scene, Pelecanos shows remarkable patience in letting his story unfold, but still delivers an economic crime novel of less than 300 pages.

Being a somewhat darker character than later Pelecanos good guys, Stefanos probably pushes this series of stories more into the noir branch of crime fiction than I think is normal for Pelecanos books. It can still be very tough in the inner city, but the outcomes of these later stories might be more satisfying to most readers, and are certainly less fatalistic.) Another aspect of this first novel that struck me as different from later ones was more references to film here. (Siegel too is a real film critic, or was prior to his death in 2004.) The Final say: not to be missed by Pelecanos fans, and can certainly be read by newbies.

Overall though, I was mostly annoyed by Nick Stefanos, the pace took a really long time to build up a head of steam, and the plot was so standard and predictable I was often bored by our improvised private investigator beating around the bush and not reading the obvious clues. Another highpoint of the lecture for me came actually after I finished the book, while I was reading the afterwod / interview with Pelecanos, where he talks about his influences, his pop references, his method of writing: Since I dont outline, its a matter of finding your characters and then your plot. And since every good noir novel must have some gratuitous sex, theres a couple of steaming scenes included. (view spoiler)What bothered me in particular about Nick and felt out of character was not so much those sex scenes, as him beating a witness / informer to a pulp and then smugly strutting like Macho Machete and kissing the first bimbo he lays eyes on, bragging later to a friend about the blood on his clothes not belonging to him.

Nick has worked his way up from the sales floor to become advertising director for an electronics retailer named Nutty Nathan's. When a stock boy at the Nutty Nathan's warehouse named Jimmy Broda goes missing, the boy's grandfather asks Nick to try to find him.

Nick Stefanos isn't a detective, he isn't a PI, he isn't a bounty hunter, gumshoe, cop, MD, CSI, mystery author, interested party, relative or accidentally involved in a crime, Nick Stefanos is in the marketing department of an independent chain of electronics shops having worked his way out of the stock room.

The protagonist, Nick Stefanos, is Greek-American like so many of Pelecanos's main characters. In the last Pelecanos I read, his most recent,(The Cut) the protagonist has some similarities to Nick Stefanos but is a much more likable and admirable character.

Nick appears in many of Pelecanoss books and I was looking forward to reading more about the character. Ill still read the two remaining Nick Stefanos novels and do have an interest in where the story progresses from here so all is not lost by any stretch.

Pelecanos is the author of eighteen novels set in and around Washington, D.C.: A Firing Offense, Nick's Trip, Shoedog, Down By the River Where the Dead Men Go, The Big Blowdown, King Suckerman, The Sweet Forever, Shame the Devil , Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, Soul Circus, Hard Revolution, Drama City, The Night Gardener, The Turnaround, The Way Home, The Cut, and What It Was. He has been the recipient of the Raymond Chandler award in Italy, the Falcon award in Japan, and the Grand Prix Du Roman Noir in France. Most recently, he was a producer, writer, and story editor for the acclaimed HBO dramatic series, The Wire, winner of the Peabody Award and the AFI Award.