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The International Writers Magazine: The Wire

Homicide: A year on the killing streets by David Simon
Renaissance Books
ISBN: 978 -080508759
Richard Crawley review

"You need to remember where you are young 'un. Around here, we'll cut your throat and drain your ass in a bathtub just for lookin' the wrong way." - Welcome to Baltimore, the third most heavily armed city in The United States of America, with murder and rape convictions second only to the slums of downtown Chicago and a plague of violent drug trafficking to put even that crumbling city to shame.

Baltimore is a diseased place. A once proud and thriving town supported by a booming shipping industry, now reduced to crippling poverty by a culture of dockside corruption and foreign competition, the city is the rough and dirty end of The American Dream in the new millennium.

We see the city through the tired eyes of David Simon, a former cop and police reporter for The Baltimore Sun who spent three years in the company of murder detectives with the city's homicide unit before going on to craft perhaps the most critically fawned television series in all of history, The Wire.

Chase shows us the human face of his dying city: the gang rapes, the wicked pimps, the dog fights and the tiny schoolboys so hopelessly addicted to crack they will literally give their lives for a taste of those bitter brown rocks that pave the 'B-More' streets. Chase also introduces us to the people on the other side of the social spectrum, the cops- a weary band of men and women fuelled by seemingly little more than coffee, cigarettes and a nightly bucket load of Heineken who race around town like a little army of Tom Thumb's- trying desperately to plug all the holes in the city wall but well aware that at any moment the whole thing could come crashing down around their ears.

There are moments of humour in this book, Chase recounting how detectives tricked a confession from a serial rapist by tying him to a photocopier and convincing him that the machine was a space-age lie detector for instance, but these moments are scarce interludes to the grim suffering that is moral and economic destitution- and somehow that feels appropriate.
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets is a raw, visceral curbstomp of a book that should give time for quiet reflection on those America has left behind. Those unfortunate few The American Dream has abandoned in perhaps the worst place in the world; in Baltimore.
© Richard Crawley December 2009

Sapphire by Katie Price
Richard Crawley

If you picked up Sapphire hoping to witness a reclaiming of the written word for the common woman then I am afraid you will be sadly disappointed.


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