Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Hollywood Crows.
Joseph Wambaugh’s books focus on police work. He takes a reader into the job and also the life of a police officer. I admit I have only read four of the vast number of previous books he has written,
but so far, I like the older ones better. I am not sure if it is the changing nature of police work, but in his latest books, especially Hollywood Crows, the action is almost schizophrenic. There are too many cops, too many civilians, and too many different stories to really get attached or care about any particular character. Possibly the variety of action portrays a more realistic picture of police work in twenty-first century; if so, I can see why there would be a high burnout or turnover rate.
The author can take an interesting premise and turn it into an engaging story. For example, in Finnegan’s Week he brings together a police detective, a Navy investigator, and an investigator from the district attorney’s office focusing on environmental crimes. The story of how they trace the path of some toxic waste from San Diego down into Mexico is quite intriguing, and it is possible to identify with the motives of the individuals involved. In contrast, in just one chapter of Hollywood Crows the action jumps from police officers at a community meeting to a drug addict on Hollywood Boulevard to cops taking down a pickpocket.
It seems that some side stories, such as the fighting-cock prank, are included just for the laughs and do not really advance the plot.
While billed as a novel, Hollywood Crows it seems more like a weak mystery. I expect novels to engage me enough that I care what happens to the main characters. By the end of Hollywood Crows I really did not care who lived and who died. I found the cop who wanted to be a movie star or the cop having an affair too
stereotypical. The surfer cops were caricatures, not characters; maybe that's partly because they are always referred to by their nicknames Flotsam and Jetsam and talk in surfer-speak, as illustrated in this dialogue:
“What’re you doing, dude?” Flotsam asked.I did learn a lot about the bureaucracy of the LAPD and the number of seemingly ridiculous meetings. Many of the cops described in this book are in the Community Relations Office, or CRO
- hence the title Hollywood Crows. The CRO organizes community meetings once a month to discuss quality-of-life issues. The meetings
get so out-of-control that they start having a second meeting the day after called the Cuckoo’s Nest and tell troublemakers the meeting
has been changed to that day.
He watched in amazement when Jetsam grabbed the top crate and swung it into the backseat of their shop, saying, “You had a bad day at Malibu, bro. I’m trying to cheer you up.”
“Just whadda you got on your desktop?” Flotsam said anxiously.
“Now, bro, don’t suck the cool outta this situation,” Jetsam said, closing the door and getting behind the wheel. (pg 182)
There are other books out there written by people with law enforcement experience that I would recommend. For example, the series by Craig Johnson set in Wyoming is quite good,
but maybe that slower-paced story set outside of L.A. doesn’t really compare to the chaos that is L.A.
Certainly that is the overwhelming feeling that I take from this novel: L.A. and the LAPD are in chaos.