Literary Surveillance

Considering the degree to which the police-crime drama has played out within the black urban confines in Homicide, The Corner and now Clockers, the opposing representations of good (cops) vs bad (murderers, addicts, dealers) prevail, even when they blur to gray. While Simon as a journalist relied on his notes, the cooperation of the Baltimore police and interviews with community residents, Price as a fiction writer turned his observations and experience into dramatic license to embellish the dystopian world of what one reviewer called “an in-depth vision of America Narcotica” (Paul West, National Review 8/3/92). Hardly. The “real” world of Simon’s journalism seems to underpin and add credibility to Price’s “virtual” fictional world. Although in a 2004 interview, Price said that he “grew up in a housing project in the Bronx, pre-Vietnam, pre-Beatles … I had instant history and instant mythology” ( This history and mythology is seen in his first novel The Wanderers which was made into a film about white guys in black leather jackets who went up against other ethnic gangs in and around NYC. As discussed in class, the geography of Clockers places it in a specific place and time that defines its characteristics and its denizens. Even though he was from the projects, Price observed that he was amazed at “how the projects went from launching pads for [white] working-class families to just terminals where generations [of black families] are stacked up in the same apartment because there’s no place to go” (Paula J. Massood, Black City Cinema, 193). What Simon observed from afar, Price experienced growing up. He saw his and other neighborhoods change and deteriorate over time and used them as the backdrop to tell stories about the people who live out these fictional and nonfictional lives. Price tries and succeeds in striking (no pun intended) a balance between Klein and Strike, but the social, political, and economic limits of the full influence of the drug trade are centered on a very small and marginalized group. That both Simon and Price use the black, urban locale to center their stories might be interpreted as a form of geo-cultural surveillance that in turn is used as a prop in the support of the existing hierarchy in which such circumstances are allowed to exist.

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