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4.6 out of 5 stars24
4.6 out of 5 stars
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HOLLYWOOD CROWS is Joseph Wambaugh's sequel to Hollywood Station, both darkly humorous novels featuring the cops of the LAPD's Hollywood Division. Mind you, I drive through the district and cross Hollywood Boulevard twice a day to and from the 9 to 5. I never think of the place as glamorous or gritty, but only as a potential traffic snarl, especially when the Kodak Theater is prepping for an event such as the Academy Awards. So, when Wambaugh's characters include the whack jobs and petty crooks that hang around Grauman's Chinese, I guiltily think that I need to get out more to sample the native culture. (I have been to the Hollywood Farmers' Market held at Ivar and Selma; it's pretty cool, and I'm surprised Wambaugh hasn't included that weekly Sunday event for local color.)

Both books essentially revolve around the beat's uniformed cops. HOLLYWOOD CROWS brings front and center the officers of the division's Community Relations Office (CRO, or "Crows") who, with their anti-crime brothers and sisters in blue, react to the area's underbelly of violence, weirdness, and general antisocial tendencies. Specifically, the Crows confront "quality of life issues: chronic-noise complaints, graffiti, homeless encampments, abandoned shopping carts, unauthorized yard sales, and aggressive panhandlers."

As I remember, HOLLYWOOD STATION was a series of vignettes starring several of the author's fictional heroes as they "serve and protect", i.e. keep the lid on, in the face of assorted provocations. HOLLYWOOD CROWS is that too, but it also includes a substantial subplot involving a CRO officer with an Achilles heel and the deviously plotting, estranged wife of the owner of a local nudie bar. Perhaps because this subplot interrupted the flow of the rest of the book, I wasn't enamored of the whole as much as I was with the first of the two. Four stars, therefore. Perhaps I'm just getting bored with a concept that's already showing staleness around the edges. Perhaps I should go walk Hollywood Boulevard and window shop the trashy lingerie emporiums; the wife's birthday is coming up.
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on 14 April 2008
Once again, Joe Wambaugh has come up with the goods; `Hollywood Crows' is absolutely jam-packed with the type of characters readily associated with his fascinating style of writing; a middle-Eastern strip club owner who wants his wife dead who, in turn, weaves a Machiavellian plot with the unwitting assistance of a besotted cop to murder her husband. Then there's the two surfing cops who speak their own private language, a spineless supervisor - a must in any Wambaugh book! - and a massive woman officer, Gert von Braun, whose reputation for possessing both an explosive temper and sharp-shooting precedes her. And with Leonard Stilwell, with a reliance on Crystal Meth and a seller of stolen liquor, surely the seediest character to emerge from the pages of a Wambaugh novel, the scene is set for a labyrinthine plot of sex, betrayal, violence and, as always, outrageous humour.

Wambaugh's latest novel is, I believe, his best yet.
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2008
Having read this novel, my Wambaugh total is now up to - well - one, to be exact. It's about LA Cops and LA people, and provides a little peek into the sordid underbelly (apologies, but I always wanted to get an opportunity to say that) of life on the Hollywood streets.

The story isn't about the famous sign or the stars on the pavement, and it's not about black birds or old women, and to be quite honest, the plot isn't really that good in the first place, but the black humor and the low morality level is what keeps the reader turning the pages.

On the side of law and order (chung-chung!) we meet Matthew McConaughey-type surfer cops Flotsam and Jetsam, who have a knack for finding trouble and a lot of true grit (from the beach). There's veteran Bix Ramstead, a loving family man coasting towards retirement, and then there's potentially famous actor Nate Weiss biding his time before being discovered. There's a trio of strong female officers named Cat, Ronnie and Gert, and a few others including the officious and clueless Sergeant Treakle, but you can read about them for yourself.

On the civilian side, there's a weaselly little cokehead named Leonard, a strip club owner named Ali Aziz, his ravishingly beautiful wife (and ex-employee) Margot, and a Mexican pharmacist who's willing to turn the other cheek for a treat and a trick. You'll also find out what goes on behind the scenes with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the other characters on the strip.

Naturally, some of them come into contact while Wambaugh turns his all-too-human characters into the terribly obvious story-line, and although he blows most of the suspense by straight-out telling you most of the details, there are one or two little twists he keeps until the right time. He also hits pretty hard at police procedure and bureaucracy in the light of the need to maintain an untarnished image after the Rampart affair.

I'm gathering that he's written better books, and although I don't think this is one of them, it has enough juicy stuff to make you look.

Amanda Richards
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on 30 August 2008
Whilst not an instant classic, this latest novel is mesmerising reading. Beautifully described characters operating in the high octane environment of L.A. utterly grip the reader. The characterisation is wonderful, the humour subtle and there is no doubt that the reality of modern policing, US-style, is overlaid and interwoven in this tale. It leaves the reader wanting more. Recommended to fans of Michael Connelly and Jack Kerley in particular.
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This is a followup to Wambaugh's "Hollywood Station" and follows essentially the same formula (and some of the same characters) highlighting the bizarre, touching and horrifying experiences of a group of LA police trying to keep law and order in Hollywood. Clearly based on true accounts, these anecdotes are fascinating in themselves, but there is also a well worked out plot holding the book together.

It doesn't end neatly - but that fits the overall mood.

Easily as good as the earlier volume: Looking forward to Hollywood Moon due out later in 2009
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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2014
Joseph Wambaugh's novel is extraordinary. It's like he spends the first half of the book not fully concentrating, as if he's watching TV on the sofa at the same time as writing. The culprit turns out to be both his blessing and his curse.

Crucially, Wambaugh used to be a sergeant in the LAPD. But what this means is that he feels he has to 'owe' his old mates by stuffing the first part of the book with endless police anecdotes, on the lines of "what's the strangest thing that ever happened to you on duty?" "Oh, fantastic, I'll work it into my book." So we have vignette after vignette, each mini-story ending in a 'punch line' that never ever made me laugh.

But wait. Wambaugh's now turned the TV off and ushered out all his old police friends. He begins to write. Properly. I was shocked at how good he is: at plot, characterisation and especially dialogue. Not only that, but the end comes across as both heartfelt and sad - all the more welcome for its unexpectedness. Now the writer's previous police employment really counts for something and away from all the clowning about one can properly and deeply appreciate it.

When I read the last, effortlessly-crafted lines of dialogue that conclude the book, I felt one of those delicious tingles go down my spine (last experienced at the end of The Graduate). Job done. All is forgiven, Mr Wambaugh. But next time chuck away that TV remote-control, tell all your old mates you're busy and get down and serious from the start. I'll definitely be there for you.
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on 1 September 2012
I read started to read this one minutes after finsihing the first in the series of Hollywood Station books by Wambaugh. I love shows like The Shield and Wire and so the cop stories and life appeals greatly to me. Wambaugh's books are full of superb characters and anecdotes all wrapped around delicious stories. He gives you a real sense of life on the Hollywood beat and all those charcters that make up the craziest place in America.

Becarfeul, once you read one of these books you can't stop!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2013
Ok the plot isn't the most complicated - 2 exes going through a divorce where they both want the money and custody - but that's not really the point of this book. The point is the portrayal of ordinary cops going about their boring, mundane and sometimes dangerous business. I suspect it is deadly accurate but it is also laugh out loud funny in parts and terribly sad in others. Well worth a read.
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on 31 January 2014
I stopped reading Wambaugh years ago, he just disappeared off my radar. What a mistake! I picked up a copy of Hollywood Station and enjoyed it immensely, became hooked all over again. One of my top two authors. This joins "Hollywood Station", "Hollywood Moon", "Hollywood Hills" and "Harbor Nocturne" on the Favourites shelf.
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on 12 June 2013
This is a great author and his series on the Hollywood cops is terrific. I enjoy following the various members of the team and Wambaugh drives the stories with much gusto and humour while immersing the reader in the downright nitty gritty of downtown policing in a crazy society.
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