Thursday, November 26, 2009

Joseph Wambaugh Hollywood Moon

James O. Born

First, happy Thanksgiving.

I like to write about completely different themes each week. I throw in a few columns on writing and books and occasionally like to mention writers I know. This week’s column shows what good taste I have. Oline Cogdill, widely considered the best critic on the scene today, agrees with my assessment of Joseph Wambaugh’s great new book Hollywood Moon.

Joe Wambaugh is one of the few people who I listen to in publishing and police work. He’s the king of all cops-turned-writers and has achieved a place in the literary world that few have attained. But enough of my hero worship.

This is what Oline Cogdill said in the Sun Sentinel about Hollywood Moon.

Veteran author Joseph Wambaugh weaves together several seemingly unrelated vignettes for a darkly comic, gritty look at street cops and identity thieves in Los Angeles.

In the last of his trilogy chronicling the goings-on in a Hollywood police station, Wambaugh balances Hollywood Moon's absurd situations with the horrible behavior of people who have little regard for others. But each scene – whether outlandish or poignant – has a sense of authenticity. Wambaugh's keen scenes of life on the streets permeate Hollywood Moon.

The cops who patrol the Hollywood streets are a mixed bag who, despite their quirks, are united in their respect for their job. Surfer cops Flotsam and Jetsam know the ocean as well as they do the streets; they can carry on a conversation in surfer-speak while collaring a suspect. Nate "Hollywood" Weiss would rather be in films but has found his greatest acting role as a cop. Wambaugh takes special care with his female cops – Dana Vaughn, Sheila Montez, Mindy Lang and Sgt. Miriam Hermann – to show how they cope with sexism among their colleagues and criminals. Each cop knows "there are real monsters out there" on the streets.

The myriad scenarios eventually come together in a plot about a credit-card scam run by a husband and wife – the domineering Eunice and her scheming husband, Dewey Gleason. Dewey uses the various teams of scam artists he employs as a chance to hone his acting skills, appearing as a different person to each set of criminals. Despite his prowess working with the low-level criminals, Dewey has not been able to find out where Eunice has stashed their money. Dewey's management skills begin to slip when two of his meth-addicted employees decide they want more money. Dewey and Eunice's enterprise takes another turn when he decides to bring in Malcolm Rojas, a teenager whose good looks help him cover up his seething anger.

Wambaugh pulls together Hollywood Moon's non-lineal plot in a believable story that also packs an emotional wallop at its finale.

In his 19th novel, Wambaugh continues to show how the job of being a cop affects each aspect of an officer's life, a track he has followed since The New Centurions in 1971.

Nicely said.

Here's a photo of me and Joe at Bouchercon in 2007.

Have you read any good books lately?


  1. Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!

    Hollywood Moon got a great review recently in the L.A. Times, too. For those who live in SoCal, Wambaugh is doing his only L.A. signing at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 5.

  2. James O. Born11/26/2009 11:39 AM

    Thanks for the update , Patty.

    I am considering running this post again next Thursday when it's not a holiday. I hate to cheat Joe Wambaugh.


  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Jim! Best book I've read lately--THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE.

    Patiently waiting for the next James O'Neil book.

  4. Yikes. Joe's signing at Mystery conflcts with Florida/Alabama game.