It's been literally decades since I've read a Joseph Wambaugh police procedural thriller. Once his plots left the realm of the LAPD, I lost interest. But he returns with all the old panache with HOLLYWOOD STATION first published in 2006, 14 years after the legendary Chief Daryl Gates retired, or, as some say, was forced out by the 1992 riots that followed the wretched Rodney King episode. It's a new world for the force.
The characters of this novel are the law officers and miscreants they police in the Hollywood Division, which I drive through every day on the way to work unaware of the human dramas and comedies bubbling just below the surface. It's the beat that includes Grauman's Chinese, the Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theater (of the Oscars) and the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. On a broader scale, it's interesting to learn the author's take, as seen through the eyes of his cop heroes, on the doldrums the LAPD has entered under Gates' lackluster successors and the current activist city mayor. The federal consent decree, under which the department currently operates, is particularly odious. Only the watch of the current police chief achieves a hint of approval.
The crimes and misdemeanors of Hollywood's low-life, and the situations confronting L.A.'s finest, are often bizarre. You couldn't make this stuff up, and I suspect that Wambaugh hasn't. At the book's beginning, he gives credit to the police officers of Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs for providing him with anecdotal stories. So, even if the Hollywood Division isn't quite so lively on a daily basis as depicted, the stretch to the imagination is more about frequency than substance and the descriptive "Hollyweird" perhaps has basis in fact.
Wambaugh is back! And I've already got his latest book, HOLLYWOOD CROWS (involving many of the same protagonists), on my Wish List.