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Bookmarks Issue: 
51-Mar-Apr-2011
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A-HollywoodHillsFormer LAPD detective Joseph Wambaugh began his writing career in 1971 with a critically acclaimed novel, The New Centurions, and has since published more than 20 novels and true-crime books, including The Onion Field, The Glitter Dome, and The Delta Star. Hollywood Hills, the fourth installment in the Hollywood Station series, might be Wambaugh's best--and most raucous--police procedural to date. Reviewed in the series: Hollywood Station ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Mar/Apr 2007), Hollywood Crows ( 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2008), and Hollywood Moon ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2010).

The Story: Ex-con Raleigh Dibble isn't satisfied with merely landing a job as wealthy widow Leona Brueger's butler and cook, so when beleaguered art dealer Nigel Wickland approaches him with a plan--to begin stealing Ms. Brueger's paintings one by one--Raleigh bites. He is soon joined by two drug-fueled kids who set out to support their habits by emulating the "Bling Ring," a gang notorious for burglarizing the rich and famous. When the Brueger mansion becomes an unlikely meeting place for Hollywood's most hapless criminals, the cops of Hollywood Station--among them SAG member Hollywood Nate, wannabe surfers Flotsam and Jetsam, and former basketball player Viv Daley and her partner "The Gypsy," a former Marine--are called on to handle the mess.
Little, Brown. 356 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 9780316129503

Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Hollywood Hills, Wambaugh's newest novel, is a cogent reminder that he remains on the beat, and as effective as ever. ... [Wambaugh] writes the way Astaire danced, with ease and confidence that comes from complete control of the material." Jonathan Shapiro

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Wambaugh's Hollywood Hills doesn't offer profound insights into the evil that lurks in the human heart. Instead, this series serves up something perhaps even more welcome as the drear days of winter settle in: an absurdist take on crime, as well as plotlines and sentences that perform buoyant loop-de-loops all over the page before making flawless landings." Maureen Corrigan

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"In addition to stupid criminals, there are some gut-wrenching, psychologically difficult criminal interludes that remind the reader that for all the stupid wrongdoers who find their reward, there are also innocent victims, and these victims take their own kind of toll. Wambaugh mixes the light and the dark in a unique way." Robin Vidimos

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Another golden opportunity to ride with the uniformed crew at what must be the most colorful cop-shop under the sun. ... Wambaugh salts the narrative with variously funny, sad and thoughtful anecdotes featuring a cast of characters we've come to treasure." Marilyn Stasio

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book's gimmicks have all been used before. ... But Mr. Wambaugh is a brilliant writer who never lets the reader down but does make us sorry when this whirlwind read comes to an end." Robert Croan

Critical Summary

Critics compared aspects of Joseph Wambaugh's latest novel to James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, Raymond Chandler's noir classics, and--wait for it--the work of British historian Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire): an overstatement in all three cases, to be sure, though the kernel of truth in each is based on Wambaugh's reputation as a crime writer's crime writer. In fact, he's a master of language, human nature, and narrative pyrotechnics rivaled these days only by James Ellroy, particularly in the dissolute-lifestyles genre that he commandeers in the Hollywood Station books. Wambaugh has not only managed to keep his edge; he's continued to hone his craft. For a crime writer 40 years in the game, that's cause for celebration.

First in the Series

Hollywood Station (2006): In his first novel in a decade, Wambaugh returns to the LAPD--this time to an understaffed office at Hollywood Station, where cops--a new, lactating mother; a college dropout; and two 30-something surfer dudes; among others--get caught up in the Hollywood underworld of Russian mobsters, druggies, crooks, and murderers.