three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
45-Mar-Apr-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-HollywoodMoonJoseph Wambaugh is a former detective with the LAPD and the author of 18 works of fiction and nonfiction. His best-selling true-crime book, The Onion Field (1973), tells the harrowing story of two policemen who were kidnapped following a routine traffic stop. In 2004, Wambaugh was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

The Story: In this third entry in the series—after Hollywood Station ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Mar/Apr 2006) and Hollywood Crows ( 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2008), Wambaugh returns to the LAPD’s Tinseltown precinct and its colorful cast of cops and criminals. A full moon over Hollywood is bringing out the worst in its citizens, leaving Nate Weiss, a failed-actor-turned-detective, and his partner, Dana Vaughn, with their hands full. Also back and busy are beach cops Flotsam and Jetsam, who are as skilled in surfer lingo as they are in apprehending criminals. Soon, a credit card scam run by a middle-aged couple goes bad, and a deranged stalker turns violent, leaving our heroes’ hands full.
Little, Brown and Company. 352 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 978-0316045186

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Among Wambaugh’s particular strengths as a writer is his ability to blend two uniquely L.A. sensibilities: those of noir fiction and the classic screenplay. … [H]e understands the narrative propulsion that comes from economically sketched visual portraits and dialogue crisp as a CAA agent’s starched cuff." Tim Rutten

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"[W]ith crime novels increasingly dominated by superhero cops and out-of-this-world villains, who’s writing traditional police procedurals anymore? Joseph Wambaugh is, and let us give thanks for that." Marilyn Stasio

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
[E]ach scene—whether outlandish or poignant—has a sense of authenticity. … Wambaugh pulls together Hollywood Moon’s non-lineal plot in a believable story that also packs an emotional wallop at its finale." Oline H. Cogdill

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"Wambaugh makes his bad guys just as fascinating as his cops, and their criminal capers depressingly real." Harry Levins

Washington Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"[W]hat really dominates the novel is dozens of disconnected, supposedly funny stories of cop life. … This novel is overwhelmed by stories that probably sounded hilarious after four or five drinks but on the page are variously dumb, tasteless, pointless and boring as hell." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

Wow, was Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post reading the same book as the other critics? He was not impressed by an endless stream of immature and highly offensive anecdotes. Was it the case of double necrophilia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery that sent him over the edge? Hollywood Moon was an undeniable hit with the rest of the critics, who thoroughly enjoyed its dark humor, finely drawn characters, emotional depth, and fast-paced plot. The hilarious beach duo Flotsam and Jetsam, "who shred the language as fearlessly as they cut the waves at Malibu" (New York Times Book Review), were particularly entertaining. No, the cops here can’t put down a super bad guy with one punch to the gut—Jack Reacher is busy elsewhere—and that stuff shouldn’t be happening in a police procedural, anyway. Overall, Hollywood Moon comes very highly recommended, particularly for those who don’t mind their crime fiction with a liberal dose of political incorrectness.