Hollywood Station is one of four novels by retired Los Angeles Detective Sergeant Joseph Wambaugh and probably one of the best police procedural books out there. Hollywood is really missing the boat on this one. Not only are the characters already beautifully defined, funny as hell and almost painfully realistic but the stuff that a patrol unit in Hollywood has to deal with on a day to day basis is the stuff of hilarity anyway. In an era where we’re madly in love with reality television and conflict and watching “real” people deal with “real” issues, why not take some stories from a real cop who also just happens to have been given the title of Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers Association of America?
Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh (2006)
The book follows the patrol squad of the much besieged Hollywood Station, under the guidance of their forty-five year veteran patrol sergeant, mentor and sometimes even priest known only as the Oracle. Although the story itself rotates around an investigation involving Russians and diamonds, in order to give the movie a forward moving plot the best part of the book and the thing that would most make this pop as a film is that it follows the squad from night shift to night shift as they deal with the oddest, stupidest, craziest criminals in America: those who merge in Hollywood, the dream factory.
With an ear for dialogue and, dare I say, a cop’s eye for detail, Wambaugh has put together a book that plays in your head already like a movie. It’s low maintenance work for Hollywood. Besides, you just can’t beat the characters. There’s the Oracle: a throw-back to the days of pro-active cops who weren’t bogged down by the politicians and the constant surveillance of the media just wishing for another Rodney King-type incident and who deals with a local letting his pit bulls run around a neighborhood loose at night by bringing some of his officers to play pit bull polo with golf clubs and squad cars. You have fresh-out-of-the-academy spitfire Budgie Polk who sits her nights in a squad car with Fausto Gamboa – the oldest serving patrol member who is quite happy not doing a thing until his retirement comes. You have two surfer cops, Flotsam and Jetsam who spend most of their shifts talking about the waves and girls they’ve ridden or broken and obsessing over new squad member Meg Takahara, her ethnicity and, more importantly, how her backside looks in uniform. There’s Andi McCrea, single mom and day time college student – a classic moment has her explaining a breast pump to her partner, USC drop out and wannabe action hero Wesley Drubb. You have “Hollywood” Nate Weiss who is using the job to make some money and get security gigs on movie sets and with stars and producers while he auditions for bit parts in television pilots. He also makes a hobby of sitting in restaurants where producers meet hoping to be seen and at long last (now that he has his SAC card) discovered. There’s also a cop who never shuts up – a requirement in all squads – and in Hollywood, that’s Hank Driscoll.
Diamonds and counterfeit, Russians and grenades taped to bound robbery victims as a gift for the cops, drug dealers, drug addicts, domestic disputes, a thousand and one conversations on a thousand and one topics in police cruisers that happen every single night in Hollywood as the cops try to stay awake some nights and try to stay alive on the others. The dialogue and the anecdotes just beg to be turned into a film. If Hollywood actually wants what’s under the glitter to be seen…