CULTURE

Crime writer poses questions

He doesn’t speak Greek, yet his Greekness is more evident than our own. Keeping up the tradition of Raymond Chandler, author George Pelecanos is an established mystery writer whose novels are translated into numerous languages. He recently spoke to Kathimerini. In «Shame the Devil,» there’s a key question concerning divine providence and human justice. however, the question is left unanswered. I don’t offer answers, just questions. Besides, these kinds of questions are not on crime story agendas. The genre does not deal with the reasons behind a killing and what follows. The hero kills the bad guy and comes back in the next novel – no scruples attached, as if there is no price to pay for manslaughter. I’m interested in what follows… Washington was hit hard by 9/11. How did you experience that day? I had just picked up my kids from school and we were on our way home when we saw the smoke. We live far away from the Pentagon… What’s your opinion on the present situation in Iraq? I was against the invasion, it certainly doesn’t benefit your average American. It was a political gamble for which there will be a price to pay. In Greece, public opinion was against the war. Do you think this will cause a rift between Greeks and Greek-Americans? Probably! You know, people look at Americans as an entity, making them responsible for choices made by their government. Obviously, me and my neighbors were not asked for our opinion on this war. Also, Greek Americans are now leaning toward the Republican party and conservative ideas – my father’s generation supported Roosevelt and the New Deal. This generation is well-off and is being conservative in order to maintain that standard. When one of your heroes, Pete Karras listened to jazz, he didn’t enjoy it. His son, on the other hand, is a soul fanatic. Did this happen because the two cultures came closer in the 1970s, or perhaps because the second generation was «Americanized»? In «King Suckerman,» I deal with the father-son conflict and the changes in American society over the course of 30 years. While the father was never to be seen in public without a suit and tie, his son had long hair and torn jeans. Your stories’ real protagonist is Washington, a city that is more than just the White House… There are entire neighborhoods where low-income black people live. Personally I love this culture, the local way of talking, the food. I live in a «black» neighborhood and I believe that that’s how the whole world should be: mixed. In your novels there are certain images, such as those of cigarettes, lighters, cars. Does this have to do with semiotics, or are you influenced by the world of cinema, in other words, writing with the idea of a script in mind. I’m a young writer and popular culture plays a major role in my existence. I’ve been going to the movies since I was a kid and in this way, when I write, I like to see scenes as images. I’ll never just say: «He lit a cigarette,» but rather describe the whole procedure, the Zippo lighter, the sound of the lighter, the flame, closing the lighter. You are also a great fan of 1970s cars. I love the fast cars made in American factories during that period. Are you planning to come to Greece for the Olympics? No, it’s going to be very crowded and noisy. In Greece we are living in fear of the barbarians, leading up to the Games. Are we heading for a clash of civilizations? Isn’t it something like that? In the West, we have developed enemies in the Muslim world, and it looks like they will stay enemies for a while. If someone believes that they have God on their side they are capable of anything, even the worst crimes. Isn’t that what history teaches us? The bloodiest acts have been committed in the name of God… America’s leadership is also full of references to God and how the US is on a holy mission… Even though statistics point to fewer people going to church, America remains a deeply religious country. The combination of religion and politics, however, makes an explosive cocktail. Detective Nick Stefanos makes a comeback in «Soul Circus,» your most recent book. Is he going to be your hero? He is my fictional alter ego. He also appears in «Hard Revolution,» my new novel coming out this month. The action takes place in 1968, at the time of the Martin Luther King assassination, when an 11-year-old boy lives through the turmoil. I was 11 myself in 1968. Do you like Sparta, your home city? Of course. And I’m planning a family visit soon. My oldest son is interested in Greek culture; he goes to a Greek school. As for my wife, she loves ouzo and meze! The interview was translated from the Greek text. The Pelecanos way Born in Washington DC in 1957, George P. Pelecanos is a third-generation Greek-American whose family roots go back to Laconia, in the Peloponnese. Before publishing his first novel, «A Firing Offense» in 1992, he worked as a cook, dishwasher, bartender, shoe salesman and construction worker, among other things. A highly successful and critically acclaimed crime writer, Pelecanos’s bibliography includes: «Nick’s Trip» (1993), «Shoedog» (1994), «Down by the River Where Dead Men Go» (1995), «The Sweet Forever» (1998), «Right As Rain» (2001), «Hell to Pay» (2002) and «Soul Circus» (2003). In Greece, the author’s trilogy «The Big Blowdown,» «King Suckerman» and «Shame the Devil,» were published by Oxy editions. The books follow the story of the Karrases, a Greek-American family.