The 54-year-old D.C. resident knew from George Pelecanos' description of the July 4,1972,Rolling Stones concert at RFK Stadium that he was there too.
“That was fantastic,” said Pettingill,who works for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “He records what it was really like to live there.”
Pelecanos,a D.C.-crime novelist and former writer for the HBO drama series “The Wire,” read part of his latest and 15th D.C.-set crime novel,”The Turnaround,” to about 100 people at the Politics and Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse on Connecticut Avenue Tuesday. It was his first event to publicize the book.
Pushed by the audience,Pelecanos admitted he was at the concert and that an encounter with a wheel chair-bound druggie described in the book was true.
“That really was a fantastic day for a young man,” Pelecanos said.
Pelecanos' books blend real stories,people and places with his creative input,he said.
“The Turnaround” tells the stories of six young men,three black and three white,whose lives are changed after a violent,racially motivated encounter centered on a dead-end street in imaginary Heathrow Heights,a black and poor neighborhood in Montgomery County,Md.,a Washington suburb. The story is based on an actual 1972 event in the Ken Gar community in Montgomery County.
“None of these people are bad. They're just stupid kids,” Pelecanos said. “The title of the book is about that dead end,but it's also about righting the ship. It's about bringing things around.”
Liam McGrath,38,who splits his time between Baltimore and New York as a financial adviser,said he's read every one of Pelecanos' books except “The Turnaround,” which he said he will read.
Pelecanos' characters,McGrath said,are what draw him to the stories.
“He really does get into who all of his characters are and gets into the circumstances and motivations of their lives,” McGrath said. “He also does really illustrate the structural realities of our society.
“On top of that,they're riveting reads. He writes well.”
Playing sports in the city as a kid and jumping from one blue-collar job to another,Pelecanos said,let him understand the District's subcultures.
“In other words,all of these experiences in my life put me together with kids that were different than me,” he said.
Pelecanos went without formal writing training and taught himself by reading lots of books.
His 16th novel is already underway. Without sharing many details,Pelecanos said he's been spending time at the Oak Hill,the District's youth detention center in Laurel,Md.,to understand what it's like for a jailed teen and his parents.
Pelecanos is also trying to get an early novel,”Shoedog,” made into a movie starring Sean “Diddy” Combs and Dominic West,who starred in “The Wire.” After writing for “The Wire,” he teamed up with HBO again to write for “The Pacific,” a mini-series set to air in 2009 that follows the American perspective of the Pacific front in World War II.