Remember Neon magazine? A excellent movie mag that was around in the late 90's. A nice mix of the best parts of Empire and Sight & Sound. I loved it. And even though it's gone years I still love it because it introduced me to the books of George Pelecanos.
The article was about a book of his called King Suckerman and that Puff Daddy or whatever he was called then had just bought the rights to it. The description of the book caught my eye and the next time I was in Eason's I picked up a copy of it.
And I fell in love.
Dimitri Karras is a young Greco-American man floating through life making money as a low level pot dealer. His best friend is Marcus Clay, an African American Vietnam veteran who has just opened a record store in Washington DC. Dimitri is carefree and careless. Marcus has had his fill of trouble during the war and just wants to enjoy the quiet life with his wife and new born son. A business deal goes wrong for them and invites a whole lot of trouble and bloodshed onto their doorstep with everything coming to a head during the United States Bicentennial celebrations on the 4th of July, 1976.
A nice simple story and one that would make for a great film. It's fast. It's funny in places. People, places and actions feel real and unforced. The characters have depth and shades of gray and are well drawn, you care deeply about the good guys and despise the bad guys. 70's music and fashion is always fun to hear and see. The title is taken from a (fake) blaxploitation film that gets mentioned a lot in the film and the characters are films fans too. Loads of film references in there too. Vanishing Point, The Mack, Black Caesar and Two Lane Black Top all get name checked. It's not an action heavy book but it builds to a blazing and bloody climax under a firework filled sky.
The story may be simple but the writing isn't. Themes of race, nationalism, the treatment of black people in America are all touched upon. The causes and effects of violence. The effects of abuse, incarceration and war on the male psyche. How drug use, no matter how tame, has far reaching consequences.
Pelecanos is of Greek descent as well so the book gives us a nice insight into a little bit of Greek culture, food and traditions and their way of thinking, as well as throwing a little bit of the language our way.
Of course this isn't the only Pelecanos book thought would be good on the big screen. And there's plenty of stuff to work with. See below.
|I may be a fan of his|
The Sweet Forever is the follow up to King Suckerman and this time Marcus is the leading man and it's another masterpiece. And it's story is one that's still frighteningly topical these days. The decimation of the inner city by drugs.
Right As Rain could be another cracker too and yet another topical one as one of it's main storylines is about the killing of black men by police.
A few years ago there was talk of Shoedog and Right As Rain getting their own films but nothing ever came of it. And i'm surprised because George has become a well known TV writer mainly for his work with David Simon and Ed Burns on such superb shows as The Wire (he wrote the episode where Wallace is killed, the bastard) and Treme. Other shows he wrote for were The Pacific and most recently Bosch and an upcoming 3rd collaboration with David Simon, The Deuce.
Who could play Dimitri and Marcus?
I've my eye on Gbenga Akinnagbe for Marcus. A cracking actor, so good as Chris Partlow in The Wire, brooding and quiet but capable of explosions of extreme anger. But with a calm sound side shown in stuff like Nurse Jackie and The Good Wife. Plus he's worked with Pelecanos twice on his shows too. The Wire and the upcoming The Deuce.
For Dimitri? I haven't a clue TBH. Any suggestions?
C'mon Hollywood, get ye finger out and start taking notice of this chap's back catalogue.
There's gold in them thar hills.