Joseph Wambaugh, author of such police thrillers such as The Choirboys and The Black Marble, the very bizarre non fiction police story The Onion Field, has finally published a new police procedural, Hollywood Station. The first few chapters of the novel give a reader the feeling Wambaugh is channel surfing between Adam 12, Dragnet, and various versions, episodes, and seasons of Law & Order but never going back to one particular episode or show long enough to figure out what is going on.
Because of its episodic nature, Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh gets a little overwhelming character wise as there are about a dozen or so people to try to keep track of in the first hundred pages or so. The easiest to notice and remember is Detective Charlie Gilford whose job it seems is to show up at a crime scene to deliver a dark, pithy comment or two. Unfortunately, he does not make enough appearances. The Oracle, the police captain with many service bars on his sleeve has a cool nickname, great reputation, but is, unfortunately, mostly alluded to than an active participant. This is a very, very episodic police novel and it does get trying after a while. I started dreading a new chapter, fearing the introduction of yet another detective or bad guy.
Joseph Wambaugh tries to tell the story of an LAPD under government supervision following the Rodney King and Rampart Division (on which The Shield is based) incidents. The cops are undermanned and overworked not only because of the criminals but because of all the paperwork and special ways they have to do things not to attract the attention of the people second-guessing everything they do. The Hollywood Station cops try their best but it never is good enough. This could also be said about this cop book.
There is a story in Hollywood Station having to do with a couple of druggies who stole a letter which lead to a jewelry heist by a Russian couple which involves the Russian mob but this plot element takes a back seat to many scenes where a pair of cops on patrol is trying to deal with each other and the events of the day. Many of the cops here are cardboard cutouts and the events of the day usually nothing you have not read in another police procedural novel.
There are a few comic moments, solid characters, and really interesting scenes in Hollywood Station but in the end you wonder why you bothered reading it.
Little, Brown and Company 2006
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