Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hollywood Station - Joseph Wambaugh

Hollywood Station
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown and Company

Mystery/Police Procedural

Imagine going to work every day and not knowing whether you’re going to be bored out of your mind, shot at, or called upon to referee a dispute between Darth Vader and Elmo. Such is the lot of the LAPD officer who works out of the Hollywood Station. Given the general insanity that is everyday life on the streets of Hollywood, it’s perhaps not difficult to believe that the officers who deal with this aggregation of humanity are just as diverse and unique. The sergeant, known as the Oracle, has been on the job for decades. There’s a pair of surfer bum cops, a new mother, and an officer who spends more time worrying about his next extra role than his next collar.

Several seemingly diverse plotlines begin to converge when a couple of tweakers get money for the next fix by selling stolen mail. The buyers happen to be part of the Russian mafia. From this low level deal, the action escalates to the robbery of a jewelry store and an armored car heist. In the face of all of this, the police are increasingly constrained by state and federal oversight groups who, from the street cops’ point of view, seem more interested in public relations than keeping the streets safe.

It’s been a long time since Wambaugh published a police procedural, but it’s clear from the very first page that he hasn’t lost his touch. The descriptions, the dialogue and the necessarily black humor are all spot-on, and indicative of people who work in high-stress jobs. Much is made of the new (since the 90s) constraints and rules imposed on the LAPD and the intense media scrutiny that accompanies every arrest. Whatever your personal feelings on the matter, it’s clear that these rules have made policing more difficult. The characters here deal with these issues and more while solving various interrelated cases. This is a fascinating look at modern policing, and an excellent procedural. Here’s hoping readers won’t have to wait twenty years for the next one.

Rating: 9
December 2006
ISBN# 0-316-06614-1 (hardcover)


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