A literary survival kit for a post-Wire world

Anyone who has spent more then 10 minutes speaking to me surely knows how much I love the late HBO series “The Wire.” After five outstanding seasons, they’ve decided to quit while they’re way, way, way, way, way ahead. There will be no season six.  It’s been a few months since the final episode aired, and I now find myself sweating, sick, and desperately looking for a fix, like a West Side fiend after an extended stay in central booking.

The question is, is there methadone for Wire fans?  Now that “the best TV show ever broadcast in America” is gone for good, what are we Wire junkies supposed to do to quell these uncontrollable cravings? I believe I have the answer, and in typical librarian fashion, it largely involves reading books.  Lots and lots of books.

The closest literary equivalent to watching the Wire is reading show creator and former Baltimore Sun crime reporter David Simon’s two non-fiction books about street life in Baltimore. Both are excellent. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets recounts the time Simon spent following murder police around Charm City. It is absolutely gripping, and well worth the embarrassment of having to visit the true crime section of your local book store.  The Corner looks at crime in the city from the opposite point of view. Simon and Ed Burns hung around a drug-riddled corner in inner city Baltimore until everyone forgot they were there, then wrote about everything they saw.  The results are predictably awesome.

After you’ve read all the Simon you can, you can always move on to his fellow travelers.  After all, he managed to snag some great writers for the show, including George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and Dennis Lehane. Stacked and our network of trusted sources especially recommend Drama City by Pelecanos and Clockers by Price.

Nemo Wolfe informs me that David Simon’s wife, Laura Lippman, writes crime fiction set in Bal’mor.

Readers of Freakonomics surely remember the chapter about Sudhir Venkatesh, the graduate student who spent time hanging out with a street gang in a South Side Chicago project. Venkatesh has written several books about the economics of the street level drug game, including Off the Books and Gang Leader for a Day.

Now, I will reluctantly admit that you can’t read books all the time. So what can you do to satisfy your Wire cravings when you aren’t reading? David Simon’s old show Homicide:Life on the Street is easy to find on reruns or from Netflix, and I understand HBO did a pretty awful version of The Corner some time ago.  After a respectful amount of time has passed, you could always re-watch the Wire from the beginning. Episodes are available from Netflix, the iTunes store, or your local independent video rental establishment.  Finally, if you’re really desperate, you could always listen to what the Barksdale crew listens to.  I understand “crack rap” is a burgeoning genre.

Remember: Bubbles went through withdrawal several times, and he turned out okay. We’ll get through this together.

-Norm De Plume

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Published in: on May 19, 2008 at 11:42 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, y’all could always read a good book… :) Or read this entry here…

    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/85-the-wire/

  2. The Corner on HBO isn’t too bad at all. Quite worthwhile actually.
    Won a few Emmys and Khandi Alexander is great as Fran Boyd.

  3. Patti, although I think white people’s track record in matters of taste is spotty at best, I think they’re right on the money when they say The Wire is the best show ever made. After all, even a broken clock is right two times day.

  4. Ballymo, based solely on your positive comment I will watch The Corner at my earliest convenience.

  5. […] than the less adulated George Pelecanos who, even before he picked up some notoriety writing for the Wire, was doing in book after book for Washington DC what Price does for New York in Lush Life. […]


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