Big Blowdown

ISBN-10: 0312242913

ISBN-13: 9780312242916

Edition: Revised 

Authors: George P. Pelecanos

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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. Powerfully told, elegantly wrought, The Big Blowdown is a knockout.
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Book details

List price: $22.99
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 9/24/1999
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 320
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.50" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.946
Language: English

George Pelecanos was born in Washington, D.C. in 1957 and graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park. After having a string of menial jobs, he published his first novel, A Firing Offense, in 1992. His other works include Nick's Trip, Shoedog, King Suckerman, Right as Rain, Hard Revolution, Drama City, The Night Gardener, and The Turnaround. He has received numerous awards including the Raymond Chandler award in Italy, the Falcon award in Japan, and the Grand Prix Du Roman Noir in France. Hell to Pay and Soul Circus were awarded the 2003 and 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has served as producer on the feature films Caught (1996), Whatever (1998) and BlackMale (1999). He was a producer, writer, and story editor for the HBO series, The Wire, which won the Peabody Award and the AFI Award. He was also a writer on the HBO World War II miniseries The Pacific.

The Big Blowdown
Leadtext: Washington, D.C.1933 Peter Karras learned to swim one afternoon at the tail end of a heat wave in early June
The heat had come upon D.C. like a bad dream and had killed several old-timers and a few who were not so old
Two had succumbed from it the day before.
The first was a tourist from San Francisco, a Swede in his middle years who collapsed at the corner of 2nd Street and Virginia Avenue, dead of an exploded heart before he hit the sidewalk
The second was a crewman on the SS Veedol, which was tied up that summer at the Alexandria docks
The young man had stood on the gunwales and leaped into the Potomac in an effort to cool down, despite the fact that he knew he could not swim
The crewman, whose name was Elridge Kruse, plunged into the water and went straight and swiftly to the bottom
A witness told the papers that Kruse went down so quickly it looked as if his pockets had been filled with stones.Karras wiped sweat from his brow and tried not to show his discomfort while quickening his step
He was trying to keep pace with Steve Mamakos, a comer around town who was becoming well-known in the boxing ranks
Mamakos was not much taller than Karras but thicker to the tune of thirty pounds, with a squat build and a nose that one could see had already been hit
Karras was eleven years old to Mamakos's sixteen, the difference between a boy and one who is nearly a man
The difference showed as they walked side by side
Mamakos could fight; he favored his right, possessed a good sense of the ring, and had moderate quickness in both hands
Far from a technician, he was rather a straight-up boxer, with few tricks in his arsenal
On paper, his deficiencies seemed overwhelming: He dropped his left too often, rarely used it, and pawed with it when he did use it
His true strength - and it was a strength, indeed - was that he could take three to land one
Some guys who knew something about it said that Mamakos could go all the way.In the Boy's Club at 5th and G, Mamakos and his trainer, "Buster" Brown, had spent the better part of the morning teaching Karras how to box
Mamakos had barely pulled his punches, and once, when Karras had been hit dead in the nose, Karras's eyes teared up, and the room tilted in front of his face
The only thing he cared about then was that Mamakos not mistake his tears for the crying kind
Peter Karras didn't mind that Steve Mamakos didn't pull up; hell, he was proud of it
And proud to be walking next to him now.Mamakos had the change for the streetcar, but Karras preferred to walk, and the two of them went downtown and across the Mall and into the neighborhoods and alleys of Southwest, where Negroes watched them pass but did not meet their eyes
Soon they had reached the fruit and vegetable stands and fish vendors that lined the Washington Channel along Maine Avenue
They were just walking, with the vague idea of getting to the water, where they thought that there might be a breeze
Their shirts were soaked through as they crossed the road.Along the waterline, restaurateurs and cooks, shopping for their evening menus, picked through the produce of the vendors' carts
Karras recognized Lou DiGeordano, standing behind his fruit cart, his shirtsleeves rolled to the elbow
DiGeordano, short and wire thin, with a black moustache and a high black pompadour, used his thumbnail to pick food from his teeth
Karras's father knew DiGeordano, claimed that he ran numbers on the side.DiGeordano lived in the same area of Chinatown as Karras, at 5th and H.
His apartment building, all three floors of it, housed strictly Italians, the way it worked, as people usually drifted to their own kind
Joe Recevo, Peter Karras's best friend, lived in that building with his folks
So did the Damiano and Carchedi families; Karras went to Catholic school with a couple of the kids."Hey, Karras Jr.," said DiGeordano, as Karras walked in front of the cart."Mr. DiGeordano," said Karras with a nod, as he and Mamakos passed.
They walked behind DiGeordano's cart and had a seat on the edge of the bulkhead, their legs dangling over the side
A rowboat was tied off on a piling to their right
The water was not so clean here as it was downriver at Mount Vernon and at Marshall Hall.
"Hot," said Mamakos."Damn hot," said Karras, happy for the chance to curse in front of Mamakos but wincing at the sound of his own high voice
Mamakos looked down at the rowboat, then pointed his chin towards Hains Point
"What we ought to do, maybe we ought to take that over to the Speedway, go for a swim while we're at it."
"I can't swim," said Karras."Sure you can."Peter Karras spat between his feet, watched the spit hit the water with a soft click
"I can't."Mamakos nodded, glanced thoughtfully across the channel
"So who's gonna win the fight tonight?""My pop says Schmeling
Says Max Baer ain't nothin' but a bufo.""Your pop says.""That's right.""He thinks Baer's a clown? Maybe
But he's a clown with a right."Karras squinted in the sun
"You gonna listen to it?""Yeah
You?""Uh-huh."Mamakos looked over at Karras, smiled as he studied the mop of blond hair, the blue eyes
"You don't look much like a Greek, you know it, Pete? Except for the ilia, maybe."Karras touched his finger to the prominent black mole to the right of his lip
"My pop's village, in Sparta, they all look like this
Pop says we never got overrun by the Turks
It's the Turk blood makes other Greeks dark -""Your pop says."
A drop of sweat fell from the blunt tip of Steve Mamakos's nose
"Sure is hot, though
We ought to take that little boat out."Lou DiGeordano had been listening to the conversation
He turned around, made a kind of pushing motion with his hands
"You wanna take the boat, take it
I know the guy who owns it
He owes me a few dollars, anyway
But bring it back soon
You hear, Karras Jr.?"Mamakos had lowered himself down into the rowboat before Peter Karras could protest
Karras followed, freeing the loop of line from the piling
He pushed off on the bulkhead, noticing the meager flex of his biceps
They floated out into the channel then
Mamakos peeled off his shirt and took hold of the oars
His arms rippled on the stroke
Karras pulled his shirt over his head and dropped it in the boat, and kicked his shoes off as well
He looked at the thinness of his own arms, told himself that he would grow."I'm telling you," said Mamakos, "it's going to be Baer
Then Baer will take the title from Carnera after Carnera beats hell out of Sharkey in July.""I hear you," said Karras, who suddenly felt closed in on the boat
It reminded him of the Murphy bed he slept on in his parents' apartment."You looked good in the gym this morning, Karras
Maybe you got a little Max Baer in you, too
But you got to remember to keep your hands up, and breathe
Breathing's real important.""Okay, Steve." The boat rose and dipped over the wake of a passing skiff, and Karras felt a flutter in his stomach
Now that they were out in the channel, it didn't seem so cool after all
Karras still felt hot and a little bit sick."This is good enough;" said Mamakos, pulling the oars from the water."What're we gonna do now?" said Karras."Now," said Mamakos, "I'm going to teach you how to swim.""I can't
I know I can't.""Sure you can
Once you're in there, you make like a dog
Move your hands and feet like hell
Kind of paddle, like, and keep paddlin'
It's simple.""I can't, Steve.""Stand up, boy.""Steve -""Stand up and jump off the front of this boat."Karras went to the bow, stood there
He knew that he would do it, on account of being a chicken in front of Steve Mamakos was the last thing he would ever want to be
And it did feel awful close in the tiny rowboat, real close and uncomfortable
He wanted to take a deep breath first, but he couldn't seem to keep one in
He would do it, but not just yet
He needed to wait.The easy laughter of Mamakos filled the air as Karras felt the weight of a large hand on his back
He was falling then, and almost as he touched the water he slipped beneath it, and he waved his hands and kicked his feet frantically, and just as quickly as he had gone under his head came out
He heard his own voice, a kind of humming sound
His hands swirled and his feet kicked
He saw the green of Hains Point, the gulls gliding at its edge, the white puff of clouds against the perfect azure sky
He took the warmth of the sun on his face, and felt the stretch of his own smile."Swim, you Greek bastard!" said Mamakos.Swim
Yeah, it was simple.�George P
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