Wednesday, January 17

Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh

Review by Theodore Feit 

This book is classic Wambaugh at his best; it's been a long time since his last one.  It appears that he collected all kinds of anecdotes, situations and observances from many police officers in several jurisdictions and wove many of them into this novel.  The cop talk and descriptions of every day patrol and response certainly is up there with the best he has written in the past.


Threaded into the string of tales and descriptions is a sort of plot that comes and goes.  It begins when a couple of tweakers [smokers of crystal meth, to the uninitiated] rifle a mail box and get hold of a letter indicating arrival of a diamond shipment to a local jewelry store.  They pass the letter along to a couple who then rob the jeweler, improvising an ingenious escape:  a hand grenade is placed between the victim's knees with the admonition that pressure be maintained or the pin would fall out and the grenade explode.  Naturally, when the LAPD officers arrive on the scene, the knees give way, setting up for an act of heroism as everyone waits for the explosion.


The robbers are not finished.  They are told of a delivery of cash to an ATM that should be an easy job.  It turns out that the man has to shoot one of the guards, murdering him as they get the $93,000.   The getaway car is a clunker and they narrowly escape.  The rest of the story is sort of serendipity, along with irony and poetic justice.


The long wait certainly was worth it because this novel is most readable and enjoyable.  The cast of characters is poignant and their lives and personalities are made real.   The reader is immersed in the daily comings and goings of the men and women—those on patrol, in the station house and detectives—of Hollywood Station.


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