Thursday, June 2, 2011
Hollywood Station. Joseph Wambaugh. Quercus (2007)
Very engaging and frequently laugh out loud funny police story. A mosaic of incidents and anecdotes slowly coalesce around the story of two couples, one a set of armed robbers the other a pair of tweakers, crystal meth addicts. The very large cast is expertly shuffled and reshuffled as the story threads emerge and knot together in a brilliantly staged, brutal and very unexpected fashion. The reveals are superb, surprising, frequently funny and always perfectly judged to reveal the character in the situation.
That this book is not a meandering mess is due to Joseph Wambaugh's skill in structuring and writing the narrative. The action is episodic and apparently random, following the large cast as they pursue their legal and criminal activities across the area covered by the Hollywood Station. Joseph Wambaugh is passionately in favour of the patrol staff of the LAPD, without being in any way sentimental about them or their work. He captures exactly why a police office would start and remain in the job in spite of the extraordinarily difficult conditions they work under. The most difficulties coming from their own organisation.
The cast are memorable, vital and all demanding the readers full attention as they live life at full speed, the dialogue sparkles and crackles with energy and bite. The structure of the book captures the chaotic life of the police and their opponents and the story of disastrous collision between the armed robbers and tweakers gradually comes into focus. The criminals are given as much time and care as the police and the action arises naturally and forcefully from the characters themselves. Joseph Wambaugh's romantic and heroic vision of police work is tempered by a vivid sense of the harsh and violent reality of Hollywood, they combine to make a superb book.