I should be picking up DVD Box sets of The Wire that say, "by best-selling novelist George Pelecanos". His work is so good, is of such a consistently high standard he shouldn't need a sales boost from a television programme - however good a show it is - the books should be flying off the shelves of their own accord.
But Pelecanos does not have the profile he deserves - in the UK at least - and so another view prevails: anything that introduces new readers to these excellent novels should be embraced.
Pelecanos' work deals with subject matter and subjects that the modern, impatient and reactionary mainstream media view solely in black and white terms. Drugs? Bad. Teenage sex? Bad - a sign of moral decay, poor parenting, society's loss of values. Urban decay, failing education system, street crime - over-simplified, under-analysed or just ignored as soon as the blame has been allocated to a (usually ideologically pre-determined) scapegoat. There's no attempt at understanding and precious little empathy.
Pelecanos takes a different view, burrowing deep under the surface to gain understanding and then exposing it to view. The Way Home is another work rich with pathos but without reactionary judgment. Everybody has a story beyond the lurid and screaming headlines and the seemingly hopeless crime statistics. Pelecanos tells those stories, with neither prejudice nor censorship.
The Way Home is broadly the story of Chris Flynn, a white teenager born to relative comfort in a secure middle class Washington DC home. Flynn leaves the path his father has defined for hím, turning his back on sports and study in favour of dope and, eventually, petty crime. And after one evening stunt goes badly awry Flynn, to his father's horror, lands in a juvenile jail where he is exposed to kids from the other, primarily black, side of DC.
Inside Pine Ridge, Flynn survives and over time begins to understand how taking the wrong decisions has threatened to derail his life entirely. When he leaves he settles into the family business where his father also employs a number of Chris's Pine Ridge companions, encouraged by another former inmate who is working in a charity that helps young men back into the workplace and civil society.
But a chance discovery in a house where Chris and a colleague are laying carpet inspires a series of events that threaten the fragile peace that the young men have worked hard ot earn themselves.
The story itself is relatively straightforward, but the telling of it is anything but. Pelecanos works a multi-viewpoint narrative flawlessly to illustrate the circumstances facing each character, the motivations driving them and the decisions they face that affect them and those around them.
At the same time, The Way Home is also a compelling page-turner which the author boils up to a tense conclusion. Another brilliant novel from Pelecanos.