Having recently been released from prison in upstate California, Speedy hitchhikes home to Oakland to reunite with his brother, Little Willy, and best friend, Fat Bob. Unfortunately, during Speedy’s time away Little Willy has fallen into a life of crime and crack, and Fat Bob’s working as a bouncer in some of the area’s rougher establishments. Not exactly what Speedy hoped to find.
When two of the group’s longtime friends get rolled by a Mexican gang – tied up in chains and thrown into a river…alive – Speedy and the crew know things have to be put right and set out to make it so. Of course things aren’t that straightforward.
Along the way Speedy gets distracted by a woman, becomes the target of a racist gang, and the obsession of a very disturbed (and disturbing) killer. Matters are further complicated when the same cop who sent Speedy up the first time starts sniffing around the crew with ill intent. Taking place over the course of one tense, action-packed week, Street Raised by Pearce Hansen is a truly remarkable read.
Perhaps the most stunning thing about Street Raised is its duality: from the reader’s point of view, the violent, seedy version of the East Bay the story unfolds in is completely alien to anything they’ve most likely come to imagine it as. Yet, to Speedy and his friends – and enemies – that human wasteland is as normal as it gets; it’s simply home. So much so, there are times when the book flows so smoothly, the characters so well defined and dialog coming so naturally, you almost forget there is a story being told, instead feeling like you’re peeking in on the lives of real people. And then gears get shifted, violently, and you are reminded of the harsh reality that is Speedy’s world, and that it’s a brutal one you want nothing to do with…outside of a book that is.
That Hansen manages to make something both so vividly foreign and familiar at the same time, and with such ease, is truly an amazing bit of writing.