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The Corner – David Simon, Ed Burns

The-Corner-by-David-Simon-001The summertime is a good time for books, and given that this one was of a type that we now take for granted in Ireland, that is, wet and windy, I read plenty.

The Corner was the undoubted highlight. Cleverly structured, brilliantly written and thoroughly engaging, it tells the story of the drugs trade in the US through the experience of those who live it each day in Baltimore. The corner in question is West Fayette and Monroe in West Baltimore, where Simon and Burns observed the industry in 1993, following the lives of a number of individuals – users, dealers, parents and community workers – who get caught in the drug vortex.

The real life stories as they unfold are inter-cut with essays on issues like the development of the market, the education system and welfare that left me frustrated, angry, moved and inspired. The new ending which updates the stories of the central characters will simultaneously break your heart and lift it to the heights.

Be prepared, however, to have to learn a whole new vocabulary.

So if you are interested in urban communities and how they work, or in gritty, real-life human stories to move you all ways up, I really couldn’t recommend this work of non-fiction written like a novel too highly.

One more thing, if you’re a fan of The Wire you’ll find out how Simon and Burns sharpened the edges of their dialogue and storylines, and you’ll enjoy spotting the genesis of characters and scenarios from the series. For instance, tell me that scrap-metal ‘dealer’ and lover of a caper Gary McCullough isn’t Bubbles.

An outstanding work.

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