four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
27-Mar-Apr-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Hollywood StationJoseph Wambaugh set The New Centurions (1971) and The Onion Field (1973) in 1970s Los Angeles, but things have changed quite a bit since then. In his first novel in a decade, Wambaugh returns to the LAPD—this time to an understaffed office at Hollywood Station, where cops mix with drugged-out lowlifes, prostitutes, and gullible tourists along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 68-year-old sergeant, nicknamed "the Oracle," keeps an eye on his own strange squad—a new, lactating mother; a college dropout; and two 30-something surfer dudes, among others—as they get caught up in the Hollywood underworld of Russian mobsters, druggies, crooks, and murderers.
Little, Brown. 352 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316066141

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Hollywood Station is somewhat unusual for a mystery novel in that it doesn’t have much of a plot. … Wambaugh has his finger on the pulse of today’s police force in a way that most other authors simply can’t match, and that makes his work a delight to read." David J. Montgomery

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"In the hands of a lesser writer, Fausto and Budgie would remain battling stereotypes, but Wambaugh gives their relationship both a sharpness and arc that are genuinely moving, as are the stories of the other women assigned to the station. … [W]orthy of comparison to the best writing of McBain and Westlake." Paula L. Woods

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"While writers like James Ellroy focus on one period of Los Angeles’ decay, Wambaugh has been able to stay current with the devolution of the city and its infamous police force, along with trends in music, street jargon, demographics, the techniques of crooks and, of course, drugs. … Wambaugh may not have invented the cop novel, but he perfected it." Adam Dunn

Orlando Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Wambaugh introduces a collection of characters that grows on the reader with each turn of the page. … Hollywood Station sparkles with intelligent, witty writing, black humor, unforgettable characters and a classic ending." Ann Hellmuth

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"His cops, as well as his criminals, are realistic characters, not the one-dimensional heroes and villains we see in so many bad crime novels, movies and TV programs. … Even after a 10-year break, Wambaugh can still write an enlightening and entertaining novel." Paul Davis

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Wambaugh manages to find a dramatic arc by portraying Hollywood’s underworld: a ragtag collection of Russian mobsters, Latino hoods, cross-dressing prostitutes and meth-addicted lowlifes. Woven throughout are vignettes involving his patrol cops and detectives." Dan Horan

Critical Summary

Joseph Wambaugh, a retired veteran of the LAPD, transformed the police procedural genre in the 1970s with his flawed, gritty cops. For Hollywood Station, he gleaned more than 50 stories from police and detectives to keep the novel up-to-date with the 21st century. Critics were extremely impressed with Wambaugh’s ability to create characters—hipper, more modern, more diverse—to fit a politically, socially, and demographically different, post–Rodney King LA. The characters and their relationships, rather than the plot, take center stage, but the smart writing, action, dark humor, and penetrating exposé of LA’s subculture will keep fans turning the pages.

Also by the Author

The New Centurions (1971): The story follows three Los Angeles police officers—beat cops—from training through their next five years on the force in the early 1960s, including their experience of the Watts Riots. It’s not a story of cases, but of the people and their motivations. Gritty—and recommended.