Joseph Wambaugh






Quercus/Murdoch Books, This Edition first published: January 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Before NYPD, CSI and the one hundred and one other 'real life' cop shows, there was Joseph Wambaugh and his series Police Story. Wambaugh, who was once a detective sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department who turned producer, screen writer and novelist, has published his first novel in ten years. And boy has it been worth waiting for. It's a gripping, edge of the seat, page turning thriller set in modern day Los Angeles, and is already being developed for a TV series. There are enough stories in this book to keep any potential show going for years.

There is no single plot as such in this book. Instead there are multiple unconnected storylines featuring a small group of LAPD officers. There are too many stories to relate. One that impacted on me is the man with cancer who, unable to commit suicide, puts himself in a position where he gets shot by police. Another horrific story is a botched murder-suicide not something you want to be reading while eating! The reader also gets to see into the lives of the police, such as the policewoman who is breast feeding and needs to stop during the shift to pump her breasts and store the milk in a cooler bag. One funny scene has her leaving her gun behind and bringing the bag with the milk bottles to a hold up situation.

After a while the reader begins to be aware that while there is no one major plot, some of the crimes are connecting. There is a background story involving stolen information, stolen diamonds and an armed hold-up. Each of these criminal events is separate, but eventually the crimes are connected and criminals and police meet in a final blood drenched, yet darkly humorous showdown. As soon as this showdown finishes other events start, giving the reader a sense of unfinished business. This, to me, enhanced the ending, as in the real life of a police officer there is rarely a definitive ending when one crime is solved, you move out for the next one. There are some extremely graphic passages which makes it terribly difficult to read at times. Crime is never pretty, and this is a rough neighbourhood. These are screwed-up, wacky, sick criminals who for the most part have their brains partially fried from the drugs they use.

Many issues are brought to the reader's attention, such as police brutality, racism and sexual harassment. Wambaugh introduces the issues with no attempt to excuse or justify the situations. He just makes the reader aware of how such a scenario can arise, and what the result can be. This is what Wambaugh does best he never condemns or approves of the behaviour of his characters, what he does is allow the character to shine through as real captures of human nature. The hardened criminals and the street people are trying to survive in a harsh world; all have an edge of desperation and loss of hope which gives the reader a slight insight into how someone could possibly descend to this level. HOLLYWOOD STATION is a don't-miss book. If you loved Wambaugh before, you will love him this time round.

Feb 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem


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