the guardian Fri 29 May 2009
Back in 1991 when this was first published in the US, David Simon was a police reporter on leave of absence from the Baltimore Sun; the book, his compression of a year in the work of the city's homicide unit, has the size, heft and moral weight of a 19th-century novel. Barry Levinson made a television series of it, although the tone and tenor of the book - and certain of its setpiece scenes - are closer to Simon's own later cop series, The Wire. So reading it now gave me an odd sense of time dislocation, that events and characters I loved from The Wire actually dated to the post-industrial port in 1988, after the last great recession, just at the arrival of crack cocaine and way before cellphones, satnav and people-trafficking of Moldavian whores. Some of his cops had begun their careers back in the racist force of the 1960s, and all must now be retired gents pottering at home improvements in the suburbs; life now for the redundant black citizenry of the projects and row houses must be worse than then. An extraordinary book.