Joseph Wambaugh

Quercus £18.99hbk

Released: Jan 2010

Reviewer: L J Hurst


Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


Hollywood Moon is Joseph Wambaugh’s third book in his Hollywood Station series (Hollwood Station, 2006, and Hollywood Crows, 2008, were the first two) and I doubt that it is meant to be the last. Based on the patrol cops who work the beat, it features some of the officers from the first books and some new. Some cops stick around, some cannot get out, some cops get killed, some cops come back to duty, some cops come back to duty changed men and women, responding to their colleagues in different ways, and still all of them follow the ethos of their forebears on the boulevards and parking lots of weirdsville. If you’re working the night shift then you are even more likely to hit on by the moon-struck.     

On the opposite side of the world of good and evil there are some nasty little rodents nibbling at civilisation. There are rats picking on the transvestite prostitutes, there are wolverines gulping down identities and spitting them out in fraudulent transactions, there are beasts of burden who are carrying home other people’s property, there are chameleons who change their appearance before they visit each of the petty thieves working for them. There are lice planning to live on the rats and suck their lifeblood, following them furtively back to their burrows. And there are monsters who are just starting to test their teeth with some voyeurism and some backdoor action. It takes a while to see the pattern – in his own way, Joseph Wambaugh camouflages the developing storylines just as nature breaks up the lines of zebras and tigers, but somewhere about a third of the way in you start to see how these feral beasts of LA have become imprinted and who and what is going to become their target or targets. The questions then becomes can Hollywood Nate, Dana Vaughn, Aaron Sloane and the other officers on the night shift start to put the evidence together in time to put a few traps in the way of  the crooks and psychos before even more blood flows?

By turning to a series late in his career Joseph Wambaugh reminds me of Charles Willeford who turned out the four Hoke Mosley novels before he died, both swap between the police and the crooks in their narratives, each of them using a southern Shangri-la as their background (Miami in Willeford’s case). Hollywood Moon is perhaps too long, the second-half could have done with cutting as the denouement seems delayed, something that Willeford with his background in writing pulp paperbacks avoided. On the other hand, what you read as the different rat runs all seem to end in the one place will leave you with one big impression: no matter how bad you think the cops might be, just look at how much worse are the pests they are keeping under control.






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