The Man Who Came Uptown

Mysterious Book Report No. 359

by John Dwaine McKenna

Everyone makes choices . . . and then has to live with the consequences of those choices.  A fictional character in Washington, D.C. named Michael Hudson made a bad choice and it landed him in prison.  That’s where he got the reading habit, thanks to a librarian named Anna Kaplan, who takes special interest in him because he reads—and remembers—voraciously.

In The Man Who Came Uptown, (Mulholland, $27.00, 263 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-479820) by George Pelecanos—his first new novel in five years—Michael Hudson is released from prison early when the main witness against him suddenly recants his testimony and the case is dismissed.  Unknown to Michael, the witness withdrew because he was pressured, blackmailed in essence, by a sleazy private investigator named Phil Ornazian.  Once he’s free, Hudson is challenged by all the changes that have taken place while he’s been incarcerated, but gets a job as a dishwasher in one of the trendy new restaurants that’ve popped up in D.C. while he’s been away and does his best to go straight.  But nothing in life is free.  When Ornazian comes calling, he tries to pressure Hudson into returning to a life of crime . . . using Michael’s release from jail  as leverage . . . which leaves the beleaguered ex-convict with another hard choice to make.  Return to a life of crime and risk going back to prison—or take the high road Anna Kaplan has shown him and live the honest life depicted by the protagonists he reads about in the novels of Elmore Leonard, “That Dude’s real,” Michael says, James Lee Burke, Tim O’Brien and John Steinbeck.  It’s a choice that will define his life and decide whether or not he remains The Man Who Came Uptown: street slang for out of prison, staying straight and earning a honest living.

The novel is fast-paced and well-plotted, with all of the spare dialogue and gritty characters the author is famous for, when he created the HBO hit shows, The Wire and his newest The Deuce.  Pelecanos has been called “a national treasure,” by Dennis Lehane.  The MBR calls him one of our never-to-be-missed, favorite authors . . . because he’s one of the alpha writer’s working today.  We can only hope that it won’t take five more years before his next one!


John Dwaine McKenna