If you’ve seen The Wire, you should read this book. If you haven’t seen The Wire, you should go watch it and then read this book. What are you doing with your life?!
For All the Pieces Matter, author Jonathan Abrams spoke to almost every person involved in creating The Wire, from David Simon and Ed Burns to directors, casting agents, and writers, to almost every actor you could think of. It’s fantastic. There is so much information in here, it could have been five times as long and still have been interesting. The book starts with Simon’s struggles to get it made, and this remains a theme throughout the book. I didn’t watch The Wire until it was off the air, so I didn’t know it was actually cancelled twice and saved at the last minute through Simon’s sheer doggedness. It follows a loose structure outlining the basic plot of each season, with the key players reminiscing about the events of that season.
Abrams assumes a lot of knowledge of the show from the reader, but it’s not like anyone who’s seen it is going to forget what happened to Wallace or Stringer or Omar. Abrams, also, of course, touches on every iconic moment in the show, including Senator Clay Davis’s famous catchphrase, the scene in Season 1 where Jimmy and Bunk investigate a murder scene while only saying one word, Omar in court, Snoop in the hardware store–all of them.
There is so much in here that I can’t begin to really talk about it without writing a book myself. Cast members discuss being part of a diverse cast, the backstories they made up for their characters, what it was like to film in the parts of Baltimore that they were depicting. I spent a lot of time on Google, looking up the minor characters I couldn’t quite place (for real, Abrams interviews almost any character you could name), and on Google Maps, looking at the streets where they shot the show. Some parts of the book are heartbreakingly sad (when a child, who lived South Baltimore and who was playing an extra asked one of the women if she would be his mommy) and some are laugh-out-loud funny (the actor who played Ziggy talking about wearing a prosthetic penis). So in that way it’s lot like the show that it’s about.
There’s really not a lot to say about All the Pieces Matter other than that. If you’ve seen the show I feel like it’s enough to say, “It’s an oral history of The Wire, and it’s great.” So just go read it.
CBR10 Bingo: So Shiny! (Published in February 2018)