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Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon, Houghton Mifflin, 1991, ISBN 9780395488294, 599pp.

This is an amazing book. Two people picked this out of my “To Read” list from the last installment as their suggestion for what I should tackle next. Interestingly enough, I had already started it when I mailed out the last installment. I had heard about this book originally on a private list that I’m on, but never saw a copy at any bookstore that I went to. Then I heard that there was a TV show based on it, but I still couldn’t find a copy anywhere. Just as I was about to give up, I passed through Powell’s Books in Portland, and found a first edition hardcover for cheap–and it was worth three times that amount.

Simon spent an entire year observing a squad of Baltimore homicide detectives. The result is an incredible page-turner, filled with humor, pathos, stupidity, politics, brutality, and, through it all, death. This is not Hill Street Blues, and especially not Barney Miller. As realistic as Hill Street Blues tried to be, it really can’t touch the mundane uniqueness–the singular exciting boredom– that is the job of homicide investigation.

To parody Dr. Seuss, “Ah, the things you’ll see!” This is a travel book as much as any trip to a foreign land–an exploration into the world of police procedures and life. It’s not a place many of us would choose to live in, much less visit. I much prefer to read about it.

[Finished 28 February 1994]


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