By Joseph Wambaugh
Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Vision (October 1, 2007)
‘I have been waiting a long time for this book,’ says Michael Connelly, best-selling author of LA-based police detective thrillers, ‘and two pages in I knew it was worth every minute, month and year. Joseph Wambaugh is the master of the modern police novel and Hollywood Station sets the standard once again. A story of cops working the street at the same time as the streets are working the cops, it’s full of grit. humour and truth that make it impossible to put down.’
All this is true. What Joseph Wambaugh’s debut novel The New Centurions (1970) did was to deliver a shot in the arm to the modern police novel invented by the ultra-prolific Ed McBain [aka Evan Hunter of Blackboard Jungle fame] who produced Cop Hater as long ago as 1956. Because Wambaugh was actually a serving police officer in LA when he wrote his book. Indeed, it was that book title and several others which quickly followed from the same pen that may be said to have mentored the next generation of American crime writers – Michael Connelly, James Ellroy and George P Pelecanos amongst them. Meanwhile, Hollywood Station (2007) is a great book in its own right – a generous, roistering, rollicking return to top form by a master storyteller in his prime. And, for readers of WISP this just so happens to be good news on two counts.
First of all, Hollywood Station is the sort of thriller which, though not lacking a strong central storyline (malfeasance, mayhem,and murder in LA instigated by Russian mafia types and their hangers-on ), the book does not solely depend upon that storyline and its eventual resolution to create reader interest. Nope, as with the nowadays sadly-neglected bibliography of the late, great George V Higgins (The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Cogan’s Trade, The Rat on Fire: do yourself a favour and read him), there is meat enough to satisfy us in Hollywood Station’s superbly fleshed-out mini-biographies of various members of the LA police force who, despite their being under-staffed, over-worked, and hobbled by political correctness gone mad, persist in holding the front line against crime on the city streets with quiet (and, just occasionally, unquiet) determination.
And secondly, Joseph Wambaugh’s return to form is actually the first of no fewer than four new book titles, t’others being Hollywood Crows, Hollywood Moon and Hollywood Hills. So there’s plenty here for this year’s holiday break.
Reviewed by Bill Keeth