Saturday, August 22, 2009

_Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets_ by David Simon

Looks like the popularity of this book is going to keep me from finishing it...I'm going to have to turn it in before I'm done with it. This is another David Simon work of intense journalism. It follows a year in a Baltimore Homicide squad. It's the book that led to the Homicide TV series.

It's a good book but I feel less urge to read the whole thing than I would a novel. I'm not seeing much overall structure here. I've read about half of it.

The bit I just read was about Miranda warnings and how police balefully predicted the warnings would ruin interrogations; instead, cops have learned to tell suspects they have the right to remain silent while hinting that the only thing that will save them is spilling everything. Simon crafts this paradox into an insight into American institutions: fairness pulling against the state's need to incarcerate.

Simon has an interesting style where he sort of talks to the reader as if he were a local, a Baltimorean street character laying down the law for the reader.

He also writes scenes as if they were from a novel:

"This is giving me a headache," says Wahls. Brown nods. "I'm going to need a lift home after we finish with this."

I noticed a detective Jay Landsman in the book, who reminded me of the character Meyer Landsman from Chabon's fantastic Yiddish Policeman's Union. According to Wikipedia, Landsman is now an actor, and Chabon's character is an homage to him.

Lines about police departments' worship of statistics are also interesting, highlighting how the stats make all murders equal, while detectives divide them into no-brainer "dunkers

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