Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: REVOLVER by Duane Swierczynski


     The Walczak and the Wildey Families are True Blue, each with three generations of Philadelphia Police officers. But that is where their similarities end. The Walczaks are white, the Wildeys are black and they might as well come from different worlds. But they are more connected than they think.    
     Revolver, by Duane Swierczynaki, begins in 1967 with the murder of Stanislaw “Stan” Walczak and his partner, George Wildey, in an unmarked corner bar.  From there the story covers the next two generations of Walczak cops, the son, James Walczak in 1995, and grandsons Stas and Cary Walczak in 2015. Each joined the force to slay a demon, and, it seems, none can do so without destroying a piece of the other.
Author Duane Swierczynski
     Each chapter of Revolver is set in either 1965, 1995, or 2015 to tell the story of the Walczak family. 1965 is the story of Stan and George and the months that lead to their murder. In 1995, Jim Walczak is a homicide detective, investigating the rape and murder of a young woman while dealing, poorly, with the parole of the man long suspected but never convicted of killing his father. And in 2015, the family deals with Audrey, the youngest Walczak child, who returned to Philadelphia after hardly talking to the family for nearly three years, for the fiftieth anniversary of the death of her grandfather. Audrey, a graduate student in Crime Scene Investigation, has problems of her own, the least of which is that she’s about to be kicked out of the program because she hasn’t completed her independent project. While in Philadelphia, she decides what that project will be: to solve the murder of Grandpop Stan and his partner, George Wildey.
     Duane Swierczynski not only tells a compelling and entertaining story, he tackles some important social issues from the 1960s and today. Police violence and brutality, prohibition that evolved into a war on drugs, and race. And he does so in a way that clearly demonstrates that these issues are not new to police work. Consider this conversation between Stan and George, in 1965, at the height of Philadelphia’s race riots and months before their deaths:

     “I’ve never done anything to these people.”…
     …“Look, man,” George says, “you talk to anybody in the Jungle. I’m talkin’ anybody, from a street tough to a minister to a gospel singer to a smiling grandma sitting on her front stoop. They’ve all got one thing in common.”
     “What’s that?”
     “At some point—and I guarantee this to be one hundred percent true—some cop has treated them like shit.”
     “Come on, everybody’s been hassled by the police at some point.”
     “Uh-uh. I’m not talking about hassling somebody because they ran a light. I’m talking about cops fucking with them just because of the color of their skin. Man, it happens to me. So you’ve got to cut them a break, give ’em time. There’s good people in this neighborhood. We just have to earn their trust.”

Those words are just as true today as they were in 1965, and resistance to them just as strong.

     I feel it would not be right to review Revolver and not mention that the book contained one of the funniest stories in recent memory; laugh out loud, read to the others in the room funny. While I won’t spoil it, I will give readers a clue: an interrogation technique that must have been developed from a scene in the movie A Christmas Story!


Swierczynski, Duane. Revolver, Mulholland Press, July 19, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-316-40323-8




A copy of Revolver was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via NetGalley.com. No compensation was provided for this review. 

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