During the height of the crack epidemic that decimated the streets of D.C., Ruben Castaneda covered the crime beat for the Washington Post . The first in his family to graduate from college, he had landed a job at one of the country's premier newspapers.Read more...
During the height of the crack epidemic that decimated the streets of D.C., Ruben Castaneda covered the crime beat for the Washington Post. The first in his family to graduate from college, he had landed a job at one of the country's premier newspapers. But his apparent success masked a devastating secret: he was a crack addict. Even as he covered the drug-fueled violence that was destroying the city, he was prowling S Street, a 24/7 open-air crack market, during his off hours, looking for his next fix.
S Street Rising is more than a memoir; it's a portrait of a city in crisis. It's the adrenalin-infused story of the street where Castaneda quickly became a regular, and where a fledgling church led by a charismatic and streetwise pastor was protected by the local drug kingpin, a dangerous man who followed an old-school code of honor. It's the story of Castaneda's friendship with an exceptional police homicide commander whose career was derailed when he ran afoul of Mayor Marion Barry and his political cronies. And it's a study of the city itself as it tried to rise above the bloody crack epidemic and the corrosive politics of the Barry era. S Street Rising is The Wire meets the Oscar-winning movie Crash. And it's all true.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-05-05
- Reviewer: Staff
A streetwise reporter takes a walk on Washington’s wild side in this gritty but unfocused memoir. Castaneda began his career as a Washington Post metro reporter at the height of the city’s crack cocaine and murder epidemics of the late 1980s and early 1990s, covering countless drug-related homicides and the city’s notorious mayor Marion Barry, who was arrested on narcotics charges while in office. Going a little too far with his research, Castaneda became a crack addict, binging away his money while fretting that dealers might recognize him at crime scenes and blackmail him. He paints an engrossing portrait of this woozy, lubricious demimonde and of the S Street ghetto where he scored, with vivid portraits of crack-addicted prostitutes he befriended, a pastor who was also a drug kingpin, and of a charismatic police captain trying to reform the department and stem Washington’s chaos. Once Castaneda gets clean, the episodic narrative sputters unevenly; he recounts tense crime set pieces, including a bloody shooting spree at police headquarters, but also much feckless office politics as he tussles with editors over assignments and raises. At his best, Castaneda writes movingly of the unlikely wellsprings of solidarity and hope in communities that society has written off. (July)