S Street Rising by Ruben Castaneda

"S Street Rising" is a striking and original book detailing Ruben Castaneda's experience as a Washington Post crime reporter covering the crack wars in Washington, DC - while being a crack addict himself.

What's so great about this book is it tells this story from many points of view:  his, as a crime reporter, a local preacher whose church was in the middle of an open-air drug market, a homicide detective whose insight and strategy turned around the unsolved murder rate for the city.  He details the types of people he interacted with while reporting on, and participating in, the crack epidemic in D.C.

This is a story well worth reading.  It reminds me of The Wire in its ability to turn a sprawling situation in the air so that a reader can take a look at all sides of what is going on. 

"S Street Rising" reminded me what living in this city was like in the late Eighties and early Nineties.  There were drive-by shootings all the time.  No place was safe.  I remember visiting a friend at Sixteenth and Harvard Streets, NW at one a.m. and having to run to the van of my friend and both of us getting into the same door because he was too afraid of the people hanging around to walk around and let himself in the drivers side door.

Another time we were driving home from somewhere and when we were stopped at a light two men with automatic guns approached the car and leaned in to see if the person they were obviously looking for was in the car.  They weren't, and the men backed off.

In law school, my classmates and I heard nightly gunfire just over the District line in PG County.  The driveways up to our apartment buildings were perfect for dealing drugs because you could see a police car driving up from a long way and get rid of the drugs. 

I was dangerous here in Washington, DC.  Crack ripped this city apart and a lot people died violently related to its sale. 

Ruben Castaneda's book brushes past some of Marion Barry's story.  "S Street Rising" tells of shady friends of the former Mayor, and implicates him in the cover up of a murder.

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand Washington, D.C.

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