Books »Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

homicide a year on the killing streets david simonIt's not often that 600 plus pages can just breeze by in less a week and a half, but David Simon's document of the year he spent with the Baltimore homicide unit, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets is as riveting as The Wire, the phenomenal HBO show Simon later created – a show we watched in its entirety in just over a month. Coming just days after finishing the last episode of the last season of that flawless series, I decided to fill the void left behind with this book.

Written in 1988 when Simon took a year off from his life as a reporter with the Baltimore Sun to follow a rare breed of detectives through 234 killings, grisly murder scenes, morbid humor and heartbreaking tragedy, it will make your job, no matter how stressful it might seem, feel like a walk in the park. It must have been way ahead of its time, a full decade and a half before the definitions of terms like “reticular hemorrhaging” and “blood splatter patterns” became common knowledge thanks to CSI and Forensic Files, in fact this book went on to become permanently change the TV cop drama landscape when it was adapted into a then cutting edge series called Homicide: Life on the Street (see this week's TV pick).

Over the years it's become an acknowledged masterpiece of the true crime genre and it's written with exceptional detail and humanity that instantly draws readers into the surreal world of the men who find killers. In a city with such a high crime rate, it takes extraordinary endurance to keep going, to face a board of red names (each indicating primary detective's open case) and try to turn them black (indicating a closed case).?How these men do just that is absolutely fascinating.

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Posted on January 12, 2009

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