The Man Who Came Uptown is classic George Pelecanos. Are you thinking, “I know that author’s name, I just don’t know why?”
A writer of 20 crime novels over the course of a 36-year career, Pelecanos was also a writer for David Simon’s TV series “The Wire,” followed by Simon’s HBO series “Treme” and “The Deuce.” Maybe Simon reached out because of Pelecanos’ skill creating empathic, but morally ambiguous characters. Or maybe it was the impeccably timed rhythm and snap of his dialog. The Man Who Came Uptown is as tight a crime novel as you will find these days—and, bonus-- is a love letter to reading and books.
Right off the bat, we are introduced to Michael Hudson, a convict; and Anna, a prison librarian. They strike up a friendship over books, seeing each other weekly. Anna’s success at matching prisoners with the books they read spills over into a prison book club. The meeting to discuss Of Mice and Men is one of the scenes where Pelecanos soars. Surprisingly and without notice, Michael is sprung from prison when a witness withdraws his damning testimony. This leaves a void for Anna, while Michael is compromised by those who pulled the strings to get him out of prison. Does he play it straight and confront the unknown and possible consequences, or does he fall in with those who landed him in jail in the first place?
Read this crime novel for entertainment, a look into the human condition in extraordinary circumstances, and for the dissection of the democratic act of the experience of reading great books.