Friday, May 01, 2009

California readin'

Corresponding with my trip to Los Angeles, I made sure that the books I stuffed my back pack with also had a connection to the city.

On the flight out, my reading choice was Post Office by Charles Bukowski. I finished it, and began another book by one of my favorite writers, Joseph Wambaugh.

Wambaugh's books are basically a version of cops and robbers, LA-style, but if your tastes run to that region, Wambaugh will rarely disappoint. Ever since I first read The Glitter Dome, back in 1983, I've been hooked on his books that capture the grittiness of urban police work. I've read most of books, since then. I had hoped to get into the Festival of Books' panel that he was on, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to get tickets.

I started Hollywood Crows (A "CRO," is a community relations officer, so the title is a play on that acronym) on my flight out to LA, but put it aside during my nine days, tooling around greater-LA, while on vacation. I actually read another book, while staying with my son. He recommended I read his copy of Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, by Matt McCarthy.

McCarthy, a Yale grad, spends a summer in Provo, Utah, playing for the Angels' Single-A Rookie League team. This is an honest account (I think), of the side of professional baseball that doesn't get much recognition. The rigors of playing baseball everyday, instead of the much less demanding college schedule McCarthy and other college draft picks are coming from, is detailed. McCarthy also shows sides of baseball people that aren't always flattering. I'll probably return to this book at a later point, as McCarthy's portrait of life in the minor leagues is a worthwhile one. After McCarthy's one ill-fated season that was the fodder for his book, he went to Harvard Medical school and is now a first year intern at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, in New York, illustrating that there is life after baseball.

Back to Wambaugh's 2008 novel (he just released another book, Hollywood Moon, this year, the third in his Hollywood Station trilogy), the fine officers of LAPD are once again the subjects of his book, and Wambaugh continues to provide readers with an honest portrait of the men/women that wear the badge, and promise to protect and serve.

Long before David Simon was giving us his own version of law enforcement, ala Baltimore, Wambaugh was drawing upon his experience as a former LAPD detective, to write provocative fiction, based upon the lives of the real men and women that make police work their vocation.

If you enjoy The Wire, or other cop dramas, I'd recommend that you check out Wambaugh's books. I think you'll find them enjoyable, and grounded in reality.

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