Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another Day's Pay On The Killing Streets

Homicide detectives are some fucked up individuals.  This point is proven again and again in David Simon's book Homicide as he recounts the events of the year that he spent embedded in the Baltimore Homicide Division.  His portrayal of the detectives is one of several deeply flawed men who have to find a way to do one of the most psychologically demanding jobs in our society and not become broken men in the process.  

And they are the focus of the book.  Some people may think that it's a commentary on the backasswardsness of a police department or about the way that crime is treated so callously by those that we expect to "protect and serve" us.  And the book is both of those things to be sure but it's much more of a study of these men than anything else.  When I say study, I do mean exactly that.  Simon's does his best to remove himself from the pages of the book and simply presents the men as they are, no better and no worse.  

As the book progresses so do our impressions of the men who at first I dismissed as being ignorant men who couldn't solve a case if they caught the man in the act.  They become more than just the racist, the alcoholic, the adulterer, or the gambler.  They become more than just the people that we see on the evening news at a crime scene or in some TV show.  By the end of the book we can see them as men who are merely trying to hold onto the little bit of sanity that they have left in a profession that forces them to observe the very worst of humanity on a daily basis.  Simon's sums the detectives' way of dealing with this fact in one simple argument:

We are alive; you are not.

In case you can't already tell, I am a huge fan of this book and I think that everyone should read it.  Just be aware that there is enough black comedy to make the Coen brothers blush, enough sorrow to bring you to tears, and enough cruelty to make you doubt the "civilized world."  But there is also goodness and triumph in this story that will make you proud of these men who are flawed in every sense of the word.  


How do you cope with a job which forces you too look at the worst of humanity on a daily basis?  This is the question that David Simon's book Homicide asks.  In his time embedded with the Baltimore City Homicide Division Simon's witnesses a great deal of crude and blunt behavior on the part of the detectives.  This ranges from alcoholism to fabricating evidence so that a confession can be squeezed out of someone.  I'm going to be honest, it's repulsing.

But then you see these people for who they truly are.  You see the way that they are desperately clinging to the last pieces of humanity that they can even as they look directly into the eyes of evil men and women who would do anything to get away.  By the end you realize that these men are more than just the sum of their parts.


The detectives in David Simon's book Homicide are not good men.  They drink and fuck with abandon and seem not to care about anything.  But then you see what it is that they do each day in such vivid detail that you can't begin to understand how they are still even that sane.


In the book Homicide David Simon shows us what happens when men are forced to look into the face of death every day of their lives.

1 comment:

  1. This review is amazing! I've never read crime novels, but this made me really want to read this book. very well done!