Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Wambaugh’

Southland Cancelled, Crimezine conducts an autotopsy

Southland—187 ’d

After five crimetastic seasons, Southland, “One of the best police dramas ever made”, according to TNT channel, has been cancelled. You got to give ’em credit at TNT—despite this faint praise—they did after all rescue the show from network nincompoops NBC. But, despite the injection of star turn appeal in the shape of Lucy Liu, and some of the best script writing ever seen on television period—Southland will not return.

Cynics might argue that a show as hard hitting as Southland was doomed from the start—the shows sense of darkness was always too tangible for the televisual mainstream. But it was that sense of darkness, along with the shows willingness to deal with issues of race, sexuality, transgression and redemption, that made Southland so very special in the first place.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to sell bovine snack foods against such a real and iconoclastic show, and that in the end is what killed it dead.

Sure, Southland had its fair share of heartthrobs and hotties, but it was never going to be as curvaceous and square-jawed as the NCIS primetime pack. Crimezine predicts however that the very many talented folk involved with Southland will go on to bigger and better things—watch this space.

So what now? Crimeziners who are jonesing for a Southland fix would be well advised to investigate the work of former LAPD detective sergeant Joseph Wambaugh. For the square eyed amongst you, the aforementioned NBC are touting Chicago PD their new cop show for the 2013-2014 season —from the same team behind Chicago Fire. Just goes to prove Crimezines long-held belief that cop shows are like the Chinese Communist army—you think you have seen the last of them off—then a whole new battalion comes marching over the hill.

TNT contacted Crimezine with this message

TNT has made the difficult decision not to renew Southland for another season. We are enormously proud of Southland, which stands as one of the best police dramas ever made. Executive producers John Wells, Chris Chulack and Jonathan Lisco, along with creator Ann Biderman and our partners at Warner Bros. Television, have given us five seasons of powerful, unforgettable storytelling, for which we are deeply grateful. We also want to thank the amazing cast for their impassioned, no-holds-barred performances, and the production team for their tenacity shooting on the streets of real-world Los Angeles. We wish everyone associated with Southland the very best.

Hollywood Moon is the third in Joseph Wambaugh’s Hollywood Station series, for the uninitiated the series follows the high wired exploits of LAPD beat cops in L.A.’s most decadent precinct.

Crimezine Barks at the Hollywood Moon

Hollywood Moon is the third in Joseph Wambaugh’s Hollywood Station series. For the uninitiated these twisted tales of the city  follow the high wired exploits of LAPD beat cops in L.A.’s most decadent precinct.

As a former a detective sergeant himself, Wambaugh knows a thing or three about life on the mean streets of Los Angeles,  unsurprising then that this  tale is heavy laden with delicious anecdotes that bear the characteristic traits of stranger than fiction beat cop lore.

Wambaugh is no stranger to such anecdotes, his 1971 bestseller, The New Centurions and his legendary1975 book The Choirboys established Big Joe as a crime writing legend—a reputation cemented by his nonfiction book The Onion Field, a work compared by many to Truman Capote’s literary classic In Cold Blood.

But it is in black in comedy and a deft understanding of the criminal underworld where Wambaugh reins supreme. Yes, he knows cops. But he just LOVES writing about criminals—especially low-rent criminals, and that makes him our kind of guy.

The novels in the Hollywood Station series are standalone works in their own right, but many of the LAPD characters recur throughout the series. We get “Hollywood” Nate Weiss, the aspiring actor, and his partner, the daunting Dana Vaughn, she might be tough, but is she tough enough for Hollyweird? We also get the dudetastically retarded Flotsam and Jetsam, the “surfer cops” who regard police work as something of a sideline to their world of babes and pranks.

Then there are the crooks, and it is here that Wambaugh excels, because he has an almost disturbing understanding of tweakers and trannies and the myriad miscreants drifting along the shabby side streets of tinsel town. In this installment of the series, we meet Dewey and Eunice—a pair of high-tech scammers who are almost as desperate to rip each other off, as they are the public at large.

Interwoven with this sordid little story we meet Malcolm Rojas a chilling mommy’s boy with a penchant for sexual deviance. We don’t know how it will end, but we know it is going to be ugly… guaranteed.

Overseeing the carnage is Sgt. Lee Murillo who tells his troops—There is a real Hollywood moon tonight. As you know, a full moon over Hollywood brings out the beast rather than the best in our citizens. The car that comes back with the weirdest encounter of the night will get an extra-large pizza with the works.

As can be expected in the weird world of Wambaugh, it is a tough call to find the winner, will it be the case of double necrophilia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery? Or the salacious shenanigans on Sodom-Monica Boulevard? If you want to find out Crimeziners, you are going to have to get weird and bark at the Hollywood Moon. Owwwwwwwwwwwwww!



Onion-Field- Crimezine

Jimmy Lee Smith left, and Gregory Powell

March 9 1963 LAPD officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger pulled over a suspicious car containing armed robbers Greogory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. Following an armed stand off, officer Hettinger was forced to relinquish his weapon, which resulted in both officers being kidnapped and driven to a lonely onion field outside Bakersfield, where officer Campbell was murdered.

Crimeziners who have read Joseph Wambaugh’s classic account of this crime will remember how slowly the gears of justice ground in a case that resulted in a public realization that the Dragnet generation of omnipotent policing had ended, ushering in a bold new era of lawless brutality.

This week a new sign that reads “Ian Campbell Square” has been installed at Gower Street and Carlos Avenue, the junction where the two cops were kidnapped. At the dedication Crimezine favorite, author James Ellroy, read the Scottish Pipers Incantation quoted in Wambaugh’s book. “The wild insistent pipes and the marching feet defiantly answer that there is no more death,” Ellroy said. “Ian, rest in peace.”

The words must have echoed around the California Medical facility in Vacaville, because as soon as they had they been uttered, Gregory Powell was dead from prostate cancer. Powell 79 who escaped the death penalty after killing Campbell was denied parole 11 times, most recently in 2010. Powell associate Smith was paroled but continued to have run-ins with the law. He died in 2007 while imprisoned for a parole violation.

Officer Campbell’s daughter, Valerie Campbell-Moniz, from El Dorado County witnessed the unveiling. Only 3 years old when she lost her father, she has spent her life following the fates of the killers.

LAPD’s bagpipe ensemble, played at the dedication. Campbell, who died at 31, had played the pipes since childhood. Bagpipes were played at his funeral, a tradition the LAPD has continued for every fallen officer.

The tale of Campbell and Hettinger is taught to every LAPD recruit. New strategies and procedures were implemented, as a result of this case including how officers approach vehicles, position themselves, communicate and keep control of their guns. It’s not uncommon for a veteran officer to drive a rookie to the intersection where Campbell and Hettinger were kidnapped.

Michael-Connelly-Joseph Wambaugh

Wambaugh & Connelly at Musso & Franks, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

It has been a busy week in Los Angeles. Crime writing legend Joseph Wambaugh, the man behind The New Centurions, The Choirboys and The Onion Field, has just released the fifth book in his acclaimed Hollywood Station series.

Entitled Harbor Nocturne, the novel focuses on the Southern Los Angeles harbor district of San Pedro. [pronounced Peeedro] The book follows the continuing adventures of midwatch regulars Flotsam & Jetsam and Hollywood Nate Weiss, and also features the tribulations of star-crossed lovers Lita Medina, a young Mexican dancer and her longshoreman squeeze Dinko Babich.

Wambaugh has been up in LA this week [He now lives in San Diego] to publicize the novels imminent release. Crimeziners will be no doubt be interested to hear that Crimezine favorite Michael Connelly conducted an epic chat with Wambaugh. at famed Hollywoood Boulevard writer’s hangout Musso and Frank’s at the

Joseph Wambaugh-Harbor-nocturne

Harbor Nocturne

behest of the LA Times. Crimeziners with strong stomachs should check out the moaning man section of the interview, at the link below where Wambaugh relates a gruesome incident that first appeared in his book the Choirboys.

Wambaugh says that he interviewed over fifty cops for this book, and as ever the tales he relates are all true—just blended together into a seamless story. Wambaugh says he likes to focus on characterization and let his plot evolve as he goes along without any plot or outline. has just published nine of Wambaughs back catalog reads in ebook format: The Black Marble, The Glitter Dome, The Blooding, The Delta Star, Finnegan’s Week, Floaters, Fugitive Nights, The Golden Orange, and Lines and Shadows The books are available for sale through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Sony.


Hollywood Crows Joseph Wambaugh

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.

Joseph Wambaugh-Hollwood Station-Crimezine

Joseph Wambaugh Hollywood Station: a Crimezine crime classic

Chances are you will have heard of Joe Wambaugh and his all pervasive influence on the Police procedural. Crimezines favorite Floridian Michael Connelly claims Wambaugh invented the modern Police novel. High praise indeed. But Conners is quite right. When it comes to cops especially the LAPD, Wambaugh is the man.

Joe Wambaugh is the writer behind Police Story, which ran from 1973 to 1977 and influenced every police series that followed including such classics as Hill Street Blues. A former police detective himself, Wambaugh, now in his seventies, has been writing a long time.

His first published novel The New Centurions appeared in 1971, it was quickly followed by a number of classic police novels including The Onion Field, a work of such magnitude, it was compared to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

The fictional novel The Choirboys,(1973) was influenced closely by Joseph Heller’s classic Catch 22. Wambaugh has adhered to this Helleristic voice ever since. Though Crimezine feels that there is also a debt of gratitude to such fine American authors as Charles Bukowski and Theodore Dreiser.

There were other novels of course, but none received the critical acclaim of his early ’70’s works based on the LAPD. Prior to the 2006 novel Hollywood Station Wambaugh’s novel The Delta Star was the last novel he wrote featuring LA’s finest.

Hollywood Station is rich with Wambaugh’s unique blend of black humor. It is a novel that deals with the lives of the officers who work at Hollywood Station with great sympathy and humanity. It also covers the crazy and sordid lives of the myriad small time crooks, who inhabit Hollywood Division, from the craziest vagrants to the most hopeless meth-heads who float through Hollywood’s criminal underworld.

It is a rich and engrossing world, that draws the reader in, and just as you think there is no methodology, you suddenly find that the characters stories connect. Hollywood Station also describes the crazed level of bureaucracy preventing working cops from doing their job effectively, a subject that Wambaugh tackles with great style and wit.

Hollywood Station is an awesome book. A true Crimezine classic and an essential introduction to the works that have now become Wambaugh’s Hollywood Quadrilogy: Hollywood Station, Hollywood Crows, Hollywood Moon & Holly