Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets – David Simon

23 Jun

The Wire is perhaps the best show ever to grace the small screen, Gritty, realistic, a no holds barred look at the different facets of Baltimore, from the drugs trade, the school system through to internal machinations of the police force and newspapers, amongst others.

This accompanying tome is an absolutely compelling beast of a book. David Simon creator of The Wire narrates his journalistic account of life in Baltimore’s homicide department (which would later provided the basis for his excellent (and aforementioned) TV show) in grim and sometimes harrowing detail.

Amongst some fascinating and often senseless stories, my highlights would have to be stories of the jury,  Geraldine the life insurance woman and Latonya Wallace. However to go into any detail of these stories would perhaps be unfair to anyone who is willing to engage in one of the finest sociopolitical books of the last century in any genre.

That is not to say the book is without humour albeit mostly of a gallows nature, but working in a city with almost more murders than days of the year (at the time of writing) will probably do that to you.

Simon spent a whole year with the Homicide department and gradually introduces you to all the detectives, how they think and work and their cases, yet remains detached enough to show you everything in detail without prejudice.  Each separate case is, as you would expect, told with journalistic detachment and a great eye for detail. Although Simon can’t help but sympathise with people on both sides of the law, the reporting is well balanced.

Simon doesn’t elevate the police either he tells it like it is, faults and all and that’s what makes this such a fine piece of work, it’s just another year for these men doing a job that most couldn’t handle. In an ideal world this would be recommended reading for everyone, detailing as it does not only the aforementioned police work but also the class, race and political divides that pervade the text.

If you haven’t watched The Wire this book is still accessible giving you a grounding for the show and an idea of the storylines and procedures that go on in real life. If like me you saw the show first then this is more of the same fascinating storylines, with paperwork. This book really does add depth and a heightened sense of realism when you rewatch the show.

This should really be required reading for everyone, especially those people associated with hack journalism that has invaded and degraded our newspapers. This is how to report a story of public interest, which I always thought was supposed to be what real journalism was all about. All in all I can’t really fault this book suffice to say I wish it was longer and i was still reading it.




Posted by on 23/06/2012 in Journalism


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13 responses to “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets – David Simon

  1. boomiebol

    23/06/2012 at 16:33

    Will be checking it out…I need to jump on the wire train :), and watch. Great review and post


    • StetotheJ

      23/06/2012 at 17:47

      Thnakyou very much. If you are up for some nuanced realism then this should be your bag.


  2. Claire 'Word by Word'

    24/06/2012 at 06:34

    Compelling review, sounds like it contains some very real and gritty insights.


    • StetotheJ

      25/06/2012 at 07:43

      Thanks! The TV series won awards and the citizens of Baltimore said it was the most accurate depiction of their city ever to grace the screen (of any size). The book just gives it so much more in terms of the little details you’d miss in the series yet after reading the book and rewatching, there were so many small things which I hadn’t noticed that really add to the show.


  3. Asha Seth

    13/09/2012 at 18:13

    I feel so glad to share this award with you as I so love your blog.

    ‘One Lovely Award for One Lovely Blog’

    Please pick it up from my blog –

    -Asha Seth 🙂


    • StetotheJ

      14/09/2012 at 12:25

      Thankyou very much, this is my second nomination in a matter of days for the same award, it is always an honour to be recognised by fellow fantastic bloggers such as yourself.


      • Asha Seth

        21/09/2012 at 07:40

        All the same deserved by your way of writing that captivates attention and mind. Thank you once again.


  4. Zeljka

    21/05/2013 at 19:09

    Great review! I’ve bought book – still have to actually read it – because of the other series of his, Homicide: Life on the Street, have you seen it? I really loved it, at least first five seasons with the original cast.


    • StetotheJ

      21/05/2013 at 19:43

      I never watched that, I do fancy watching it though, for some reason I thought it was a mini series like the corner. I watched The Wire though, of course and that was amazing. I’ve reviewed The Corner book as well, you are in for a first class journalistic treat when you read either.


      • Zeljka

        22/05/2013 at 09:38

        Noted The Corner now, thanks for recommendation!


    • nancyrae4

      28/07/2013 at 00:11

      Homicide: Life on the Street was one of the best series on TV, bar none. It stands up in re-run, still valid, still pertinent.


      • Ste J

        28/07/2013 at 19:08

        I haven’t watched it yet…I watched The wire and then went for the books, but have yet to see this, or the corner. I really need to check out some good TV.



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