Hard to believe Joseph Wambaugh was ever a cop, he is slight, quietly spoken and youthful for his seventy-five years. When he speaks of getting liquored up for the Johnny Carson show back in the seventies there is the distinct glow of mischief in his eyes. This streak of devilry comes through in his writing too, and his book Hollywood Crows is no exception.
Joe Wambugh was always a maverick, even as a Hollywood police sergeant, back in the days when a crack in the kidneys with a nightstick was a panacea for miscreants who wanted to get smart with the LAPD. From reading his writing, one can certainly picture old school Wambaugh, his breath hot with whiskey, administering swift justice to street corner stoners without any sense of irony.
The bureaucratic Federal Consent Decree that followed the Rodney King beating, the LA Riots and the Rampart scandal, spoilt things for ever for the LAPD’s style of maverick justice and free thinking ‘initiative’. Wambaugh views the decree with outrage and incredulity. He looks back nostalgically to the days of yore with petulant fondness.
Welcome to the world of the Hollywood Crows (CROS-geddit?)—LAPD’s community relations office, the liaisons who take the weight off real cops, by dealing with parking disputes and the myriad picayune community based niggles that would other wise swamp the departments crime fighting elite.
Hollywood Crows is the sequel to Hollywood Station. Many of the characters are the same: Hollywood Nate Weiss, the Surfer Cops, Flotsam and Jetsam and Bix Ramstead. The style is very familiar too, dark comedy, endless squad room anecdotes with wise guy pay-offs. Wambaugh is a master of this kind of writing. The dark humor may intrude in the verisimilitude of his tales, but so what, Wambaugh is an entertainer now, not a duty sergeant.
There are gripes with this story however, the crack-head stoner is very similar to the central character in the first book, as is the seedy nightclub proprietor who hires him to break into his ex wife’s house. Murder is of course the crime at the bottom of these ugly shenanigans and the convoluted way in which it is executed never truly satisfies, but the quality of Wambaugh’s writing is so deliciously engaging it almost doesn’t matter.
Crimezine is a big fan of Wambaugh, he has the Hollywood milieu nailed. Mulholland Drive Community liaison, Sergeant Lex Polański agrees: That Wambaugh is a son of a bitch he opines. I arrest anyone these days I got to fill more paperwork than a dime store detective novelist god damn it. Crimezine agrees, the esteemed world of crime fighting is not what it used to be, we did find it somewhat unsettling however that Sergeant Polański was looking towards the Crais residence when he made this somewhat acerbic comment. Cops.