The Wire: Truth be Told

Category: , , By Rev/Views

In a slight break from the norm here I'm going to look at the book which caused me to miss yesterdays promised update because I was reading instead of writing. It's the companion piece to HBO's narrative television giant The Wire. Subtitled Truth be Told and penned by Wire staff writer Rafael Alvarez (with an introduction from David Simon) it's an overview of the show from it's conception all the way to it's finale and serves not only as a look into the production of the series but also as an episode guide, reference and even a glossary of terms. The publishers have even thought to include an attached ribbon bookmark, something I always appreciate having as I constantly loose my bookmarks around the house (even though I've owned the same two for about fifteen to twenty years now, they keep turning up again).

The book itself is a hefty and stylish tome. Behind the iconic silver and black dust cover (which mirrors the colour scheme of the first season boxed set) there's a classy looking tome weighing in with 580 odd pages spread over seven chapters. In addition to writings from Rafael there are also interviews and quotes from other Wire related individuals inter spaced with black and white pictures from the show. There are even a few pages of colour panels, each of which showcase the artistic skill involved in the direction of the show, the shots are all beautiful in of themselves (even if the subject matter involved in many of the shots is anything but...)

The first section of the book contains David Simon's introduction, the letter he sent to HBO pitching The Wire and a contemporary piece on Barack Obama - who is a confessed Wire fan and loves (but does not condone of course) the character of the stick up artist Omar Little. Then the next five chapters break down into a rough collection of pieces about either the relative season the chapter focuses on - including two to three page episode synopsises (don't expect everything to be covered in them, but many pertinent details are) but also sections looking at the various Wire characters, some of the actors behind them, unsung members of the production team and much, much more.

There's a section on The Bunk, which covers both Bunk Mooreland and his real life inspiration Detective Oscar Requer. A detailed look at two of my favourite characters; Frank Sobotka and Jimmy McNulty. Detailed looks into politics (both as depicted on The Wire and the ones which dipped into/interfered with the creation of the shows episodes), Nick Horby's interview with David Simon and much, much more. All capped with a script called 'A Scene That Will Never Make the Bonus Disc' it's a ripping read and also has an incredible set of appendixes including a glossary of the language used in The Wire. No excuse now for not knowing what someone means when they say they're 'carrying water'.

It's an absolute pleasure to read, gripping but light enough that you don't feel bogged down by the size of it, and as such I think it's no exaggeration to say that this book is a must read for anyone who's watched The Wire and wants to know a little more about the scope, aim and style of the show. Rafael (and the others who contribute) brings a shrewd insight into the show that only someone closely involved in it could be - unless the big man himself (Simon) wishes to pick up a proverbial pen and write a book on The Wire this one is pretty "it".


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