More About Drive-By

Not long ago, many Americans dismissed the slaughter as an inner-city problem. But now the crackle of gunfire echoes from the poor-urban neighborhoods to the suburbs of the heartland. Omaha, with a population of 340,000, is just an average Midwestern city, which is why the story of its armed youth shows how treacherous the problem has become...

On any Saturday night, Omaha's police radio betrays the city's image as a bastion of conservative heartland values: "Caller reports two youths with guns in a parking lot...Anonymous caller reports shots in her neighborhood...Drive-by shooting reported...Officer reports at least 10 shots...One young male wounded by gunfire."

--Jon D. Hull, TIME, Aug. 2, 1993

Bloods and Crips. Drive-by shootings. Crack cocaine. Colors. Urban warfare has invaded the heartland.

Now a fictional detective has entered the fray. William J. Reynolds' private-eye Nebraska, based in Omaha, takes on the gangs in Drive-By. It is a natural move for the character, whose antecedents are west-cost tough guys Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade.

As always, Reynolds brings his unique wit and sensitivity to the telling of this story, the sixth entry in the Nebraska series. His sardonic sleuth has been appointed unofficial guardian angel of Darius LeClerc, a young man new to Omaha. When Darius is gunned down, Nebraska teams with the boy's uncle, Elmo Lammers, to find the killers. Nebraska finds himself face-to-face with a cold-blooded gang leader and his ruthlessly obedient "soldiers."

As in previous novels, author William J. Reynolds brings his unique wit and sensitivity to the telling of the tale; his private eye, Nebraska, is his usual "medium-boiled," sardonic self; the supporting characters--those whose lives are intertwined with the malevolent presence of the gangs--are genuine and richly drawn.

The streets of Omaha, already familiar to Nebraska fans, seem darker, more dangerous in this novel. The backstreets and alleys through which the detective and his army buddy prowl for clues could be in a foreign country, teeming with fascinating, richly drawn people. It is the sense of the familiar suddenly grown alien that should strike a chord with a public whose comfortable values have been so violently challenged by the ruthlessness of young people with guns and an attitude.

Ironically, but not inappropriately, the climax of Drive-By is reminiscent of a classic western shootout. The coming of gangs to the cities of the Great Plains is like a reprise of the violence in the frontier towns from which those cities grew. Whether the locale is Dodge City or Tombstone or Omaha, whether the gangs are the Daltons or the Clantons or the Crips, the show-down comes when decent people decide it is worth the risk to regain law and order.

For fans of Nebraska, Drive-By is a must-read, a landmark in the evolution of this intriguing character. For readers new to the series, it is a glorious introduction.

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