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All of George Pelecanos’ Books in Order!
Who is George Pelecanos?
American writer from Washington D.C., George Pelecanos is known for writing hard-boiled detective fiction set primarily in his hometown – and also for being influenced by Elmore Leonard.
He found success with the Nick Stefanos Series, but also with his D.C. Quartet series, and the Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series.
As a TV screenwriter, George Pelecanos frequently collaborates with David Simon on HBO series such as The Wire and Treme, and is also the co-creator (with Simon) of The Deuce and We Own This City.
How to read the George Pelecanos Books in Order?
The Nick Stefanos Series
- A Firing Offense (1992) – As the advertising director of Nutty Nathan’s, Nick Stefanos knows all the tricks of the electronics business. Blow-out sales and shady deals were his life. When one of the stockboys disappears, it’s not news: just another metalhead who went off chasing some dream of big money and easy living. But the kid reminded Nick of himself twelve years ago: an angry punk hooked on speed metal and the fast life. So when the boy’s grandfather begs Nick to find the kid, Nick says he’ll try.
- Nick’s Trip (1993) – Nick Stefanos has given up his job in sales to tend bar at the Spot, where drinks and women are both a bit too easily available, and the routine is starting to feel as dead-end as his last gig. But things are about to change. First, his high-school friend Billy Goodrich asks him to find his wife April, who he says left him for small-time crime boss Joey DiGeordano. In fact, April has taken off with hog farmer/bondage freak Tommy Crane and, it turns out, with $200,000 of DiGeordano family money. There are powerful enemies on her trail — and now on Nick’s trail, too.
- Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go (1995) – Lying in the darkness, drunk and immobile, Nick Stefanos hears two men murder a terrified teenager. When he wakes in the morning, his memory is blurred. But the dead boy is still there, submerged in the river. The police presume it’s a gang-killing – no shortage of them in DC. But Nick isn’t sure; gangs don’t use silencers. Hit men do. Despite not having worked a PI case for a year and a half, Nick starts investigating, driven by an obsessive need for the truth. And with each clue he unearths, he’s driven further into the darkest corners of the human soul.
The D.C. Quartet series in order
- The Big Blowdown (1996) – For Joey Recevo and Pete Karras, two kids from one of Washington’s rougher neighborhoods, the easiest work to find after the War is all criminal—providing a little muscle for a local boss. But Karris is soft on his fellow immigrants, and the boss can’t let his mob get soft, so one of his boys gives Karras a painful lesson. Three years later, it’s the same mob that figures big Nick Stefanos’s grill needs protection—and this decision will once again bring Joey and Pete face-to-face. In this final confrontation, the two of them will find the meaning of friendship, the heart of honor, and the cost of both.
- King Suckerman (1997) – In the summer of 1976, the nation’s capital is gearing up for the Bicentennial. Captain Beefheart’s on the eight-track, and the hot new film “King Suckerman” has everyone talking. Two knockaround guys named Clay and Karras are out looking for trouble when they stumble onto a drug deal gone bad and end up with a pile of money that isn’t theirs. When the well-armed dealer starts spilling blood to get to the cash, Clay and Karras must take a stand, go straight, and get justice–or maybe just sweet revenge.
- The Sweet Forever (1998) – It’s 1986 and Washington DC is being torn apart by the cocaine trade. The Mayor is too busy chasing coke and hookers to care, and the police force is manned by corrupt rednecks like Richard ‘King’ Tutt. Down in the neighborhoods, black children are shooting each other over nickel bags and the outside world just doesn’t care. The only man prepared to do anything about it is Marcus Clay whose new record store – Real Right Records – is in the heart of the ghetto. Business is okay. What isn’t okay is that his wife has thrown him out and his best friend, Dimitri Karras, is hitting the recreational substances way too hard.
- Shame the Devil (2000) – A restaurant robbery goes badly wrong in Washington, D.C., leaving a number of employees dead, the gunman’s brother killed by police, and a young boy run over by the getaway car, a situation that rapidly worsens as the gunman vows to avenge his brother by killing every person involved in his death.
The Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series in order
- Right as Rain (2001) – Derek Strange and Terry Quinn are ex-cops turned private detectives in Washington, DC. Hired to investigate the death of an off-duty black police officer at the hands of a white policeman, Strange and Quinn are faced with the institutionalized racism of the nation’s most poorly trained and dangerous police force. As the two private detectives confront the degradation of the city’s flourishing drug trade, they find themselves up against some of the most implacable, dead-eyed killers ever to grace the pages of a novel.
- Hell to Pay (2002) – Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, the team of private investigators who made their stunning debut in Right As Rain, are hired to find a 14-year-old white girl from the suburbs who’s run away from home and is now working as a prostitute. The two ex-cops think they know D.C.’s dangers, but nothing in their experience has prepared them for Worldwide Wilson, the pimp whose territory they’re intruding upon.
- Soul Circus (2003) – Private Investigator Derek Strange and his partner, Terry Quinn, are approached by a young man asking them to find his girlfriend who has gone missing. And so Strange and Quinn find her. Just another day? Not quite. In the grimy underworld inhabited by Strange, nothing is that simple. For Strange and Quinn’s efforts have led to a young mother being brutally murdered – a devastating discovery that causes them both to question the morality by which they live. And yet at the same time they need to continue the search for another missing girl, a teenage runaway who shows up in a porn video. And who hasn’t been seen since?
- Hard Revolution (2004) – It’s the spring of 1968, and the sun shines down on an America on the brink of civil war. Martin Luther King preaches in vain for non-violent protest and the ghettos of Washington DC seethe with anger. In the middle of this powder-keg is thrust a young black cop, barely out of school himself. Derek Strange believes passionately that he can make a difference, but his friends and family think he’s a traitor and a patsy of the white establishment. On April 4th, 1968, Dr King is assassinated on the balcony of his motel in Memphis, Tennessee. And black America rises as one to condemn the slaying of their hero. For one week, it seems that the whole country will fall. And Derek, his brother, his father, his mother and his whole community find themselves at the heart of a battle for the heart and soul of the new world.
- What It Was (2012) – Washington, D.C., 1972. Derek Strange has left the police department and set up shop as a private investigator. His former partner, Frank “Hound Dog” Vaughn, is still on the force. When a young woman comes to Strange asking for his help recovering a cheap ring she claims has sentimental value, the case leads him onto Vaughn’s turf, where a local drug addict’s been murdered, shot point-blank in his apartment. Soon both men are on the trail of a ruthless killer: Red Fury, so called for his looks and the car his girlfriend drives, but a name that fits his personality all too well. Red Fury doesn’t have a retirement plan, as Vaughn points out – he doesn’t care who he has to cross, or kill, to get what he wants. As the violence escalates and the stakes get higher, Strange and Vaughn know the only way to catch their man is to do it their own way.
The Spero Lucas series in order
- The Cut (2011) – Spero Lucas has a new line of work. Since he returned home to Washington, D.C. after serving in Iraq, he has been doing special investigations for a defense attorney. He’s good at it, and he has carved out a niche: recovering stolen property, no questions asked. His cut is forty percent. A high-profile crime boss who has heard of Lucas’s specialty hires him to find out who has been stealing from his operation. It’s the biggest job Spero has ever been offered, and he quickly gets a sense of what’s going on. But before he can close in on what’s been taken, he tangles with a world of men whose amorality and violence leave him reeling. Is any cut worth your family, your lover, your life?
- The Double (2013) – The job seems simple enough: retrieve the valuable painting — “The Double” — Grace Kinkaid’s ex-boyfriend stole from her. It’s the sort of thing Spero Lucas specializes in: finding what’s missing, and doing it quietly. But Grace wants more. She wants Lucas to find the man who humiliated her — a violent career criminal with a small gang of brutal thugs at his beck and call. Lucas is a man who knows how to get what he wants, whether it’s a thief on the run — or a married woman. In the midst of a steamy, passionate love affair that he knows can’t last, in pursuit of a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, Lucas is forced to decide what kind of man he is — and how far he’ll go to get what he wants.
Other George Pelicanos Novels in Publication Order
- Shoedog (1994) – Constantine was born in D.C., and has been traveling the world ever since-finding everything but a home. Randolph has stayed in this city every day, selling shoes in a downtown store, taking care of ladies who lie about their sizes and sometimes fit him into their beds. Now these two strangers, one white, one black, have come together in a criminal’s audacious plan.
- Drama City (2005) – Lorenzo Brown loves his work. As an officer for the Humane Society, it is his job to cruise the city streets looking for dogs that are being mistreated: underfed, unclean, trained to kill. He takes pride in making their lives better. And that pride helps Lorenzo resist the pull of easier money doing the kind of work that got him a recent prison bid. Rachel Lopez loves her work, too. By day she is a parole officer, helping people, Lorenzo Brown among them, along a path back to responsibility and advancement. At night she heads for the city’s hotel bars, where she can always find a man who will let her act out her damage. She loses herself in sex and drink and more. But Rachel’s nights are taking a toll on her days. Lorenzo knows the signs. The trouble is, he truly needs her right now.
- The Night Gardener (2006) – Gus Ramone is “good police”, a former Internal Affairs investigator now working homicide for the city’s Violent Crime branch. His new case involves the death of a local teenager named Asa whose body has been found in a local community garden. The murder unearths intense memories of a case Ramone worked as a patrol cop 20 years earlier, when he and his partner, Dan “Doc” Holiday, assisted a legendary detective named T.C. Cook. The series of murders, all involving local teenage victims, was never solved. In the years since, Holiday has left the force under a cloud of morals charges, and now finds work as a bodyguard and driver. Cook has retired, but he has never stopped agonizing about the “Night Gardener” killings.
- The Turnaround (2008) – On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever. Thirty-five years later, one survivor of that day reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.
- The Way Home (2009) – Christopher Flynn is trying to get it right. After years of trouble and rebellion that enraged his father and nearly cost him his life, he has a steady job in his father’s company, he’s seriously dating a woman he respects, and, aside from the distrust that lingers in his father’s eyes, his mistakes are firmly in the past. One day on the job, Chris and his partner come across a temptation almost too big to resist. Chris does the right thing, but old habits and instincts rise to the surface, threatening this new-found stability with sudden treachery and violence. With his father and his most trusted friends, he takes one last chance to blast past the demons trying to pull him back.
- The Martini Shot (2015) – Short stories and a novella from George Pelecanos. We go behind the scenes of a television cop show, where a writer gets caught up in a drama more real than anything he could have conjured for a script. By turns, heartbreaking and humane, brutal and funny, these finely constructed tales expose the violence and striving beneath the surface of any city and within any human heart.
- The Man Who Came Uptown (2018) – Michael Hudson spends the long days in prison devouring books given to him by the prison’s librarian, a young woman named Anna who develops a soft spot for her best student. Anna keeps passing Michael books until one day he disappears, suddenly released after a private detective manipulated a witness in Michael’s trial. Outside, Michael encounters a Washington, DC that has changed a lot during his time locked up. Once shady storefronts are now trendy beer gardens and flower shops. But what hasn’t changed is the hard choice between the temptation of crime and doing what’s right.
If you like George Pelecanos, you may also want to see our guide to Dennis Lehane’s books or, in a different style, Carl Hiaasen’s one. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.