December 2, 2014

Dec 2

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

David Simon


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SOLD: $12,000

First edition. Extensively annotated throughout. Published at the height of the murderous crack cocaine epidemic, Simon’s book chronicled a year of homicides—234 of them—on the streets of Baltimore. His unflinching, yet humane portrayal of the victims, the suspects, and the police who investigated these crimes, would spawn one of the best television dramas ever to appear on American screens: The Wire. His extensive comments—almost every page is annotated—show the same passion and telling eye for detail that made the book such a success. Alongside the opening of chapter two—the account of the murder scene of 11-year old Latonya Kim Wallace–Simon writes: “Unforgettable for as long as I live.” When the police inform the girl’s parents about her murder, Simon “felt like an unjustified interloper being present for this…I was there for dozens of notifications but this was the first and the worst.” He expresses strong opinions in his notes about good and bad policing. In a scene where Det. Garvey talks his way into a residence to arrest a coked-up suspect, with only one uniformed officer as back-up, Simon writes in admiration: “Fuck SWAT teams. Good police work is about control, more than violence.” He is smart enough to realize that his presence may have served to check the officers on occasion. “I wonder if this suspect gets beat if I’m not there,” he writes about one encounter. But what shines through most of all is the telling eye for detail that marks the great reporter: “In Baltimore, I believe, no white person ever smoked Newports. No black person touches a Marlboro.” And speaking of cigarettes, he writes a little further on: “No smoking nowadays in the interrogation rooms. Caramba!” We learn in another note that under Maryland law a deathbed confession can only be admissible if the confessor had a stated belief in God! As for his second thoughts, he has good and bad reactions to his prose: “Not bad, Simon. A good graf there,” he says at one point. When he writes on p. 566, “Tom Pellegrini sits like Ahab himself…staring hard at the white whale of his own making,” he writes underneath: “Yeah, couldn’t resist.” Another: “Hey. I know a metaphor when it slaps me in the face.” After the fine last paragraph, Simon writes: “Finished. Called up Mclarney. ‘Terry, buy me a drink.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I finished the fucking book.’ Long pause. ‘You’re writing a book?’”

SIMON, David (b. 1960). Homicide. A Year on the Killing Streets. Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1991. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.



© Paul Schiraldi

David Simon is a Baltimore-based journalist, author, and television producer. A former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, he is the creator of the celebrated HBO series The Wire, which depicts the social fissures in an American city. His other credits include the NBC drama Homicide and HBO’s The Corner and Generation Kill. His most recent project, Treme, is a drama about post-Katrina New Orleans.