Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on Hollywood Hills or here for Bob Walch's review.
My apologies to Joseph Wambaugh. I had given up on the iconic LAPD author of The New Centurions and The Onion Field, finding his recent attempts at a more humorous approach to law enforcement not as exciting as the works that established him as an authority in the genre. But Hollywood Hills has enough of the old spirit and pithy observations to remind me of why this author is so readable. Granted, Hollywood Station is the pinnacle of the entertainment business, where movie stars have been elbowed aside by the celebrity fame-whores desperate to claim their fifteen minutes.
Even the LAPD isn’t exempt. “Hollywood Nate” Weiss still hopes for a break, his SAG card ready in his wallet next to his police ID. A meeting with B-list director Rudy Ressler reawakens Nate’s flagging hopes, along with the interest of the surgically-enhanced widow, Leona Brueger (shades of “Sunset Boulevard”). But there is more going on in this novel than Nate’s ambition or a cougar’s interest, including a scheme by a nearly-bankrupt art dealer, an ex-con butler to Mrs. Brueger and the drug-addled plans of Jonas
Claymore, a tweaker inspired to copy the thwarted attempts of the infamous Bling Ring with his roomie, the equally strung out Megan Burke.
Every shift after role call, the various partners head out to face what the night will bring, especially the craziness of a Hollywood Moon. Nate partners temporarily with Lorenzo “Snuffy” Salcedo, a veteran female training instructor teaching the ropes to the latest woman on the force, and the inimitable Flotsam and Jetsam - surfer cops who spend their days riding the waves at Malibu and communicate in their own language. Every shift brings a new set of problems, but the collision between the art dealer, Leona’s new butler and the frantic tweakers takes on a life of its own.
Whether taking down a behemoth looking for a little entertainment rousting cops or the domestic violence case that ends in a gruesome tragedy, Wambaugh is right there with his finger on the pulse of the city of the stars. From the characters parading in costume in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater to the roach-infested rooms of addicts, the city is always filled with new twists on human depravity and stupidity, lives on the line in one instant of unfettered violence.
Nate may not have made it to the big screen yet, but every night is a Shakespearean play - whether comedy or tragedy depends on the players. Wambaugh does his best to remind us that the faces behind the badges are human. He hasn’t lost his touch. His stories still leave you thinking: “It’s a whole lot better to be judged by twelve than buried by six.”