BY BRUCE DeSILVA
In his latest police procedural, Joseph Wambaugh introduces a large assortment of quirky cops, each made readily recognizable by his own ‘‘handle.’’
For a start, there’s Doomsday Dan Applewhite, who lives ‘‘in constant anticipation of calamity.’’ There’s Compassionate Charlie Gifford, who finds street brutality amusing. There’s Nathan Hollywood Weiss, who is trying to break into the movies. And two surfer-dude cops, Flotsam and Jetsam, who’d really rather be at the beach.
Most of them are assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Relations Office. Hence the title, Hollywood Crows (Little, Brown, 343 pages, $26.99). Dismissed by other officers as ‘‘the sissy beat’’ or ‘‘teddy bears in blue,’’ the Crows spend most of their time dealing with ‘‘quality of life complaints’’ such as loud music, barking dogs and illegal parking.
But as they complain about their paperwork, hit on one another and mosey from one seemingly unrelated complaint to the next, they manage to bump into a number of real crimes including robbery and murder.
Nearly always, these crimes provoke attempts at cop humor that vary between distasteful and offensive.
‘‘No such thing as rape in Hollywood,’’ one observes. ‘‘Just a lot of business disputes.’’
About midway through the book, it dawns on the reader that a few of the incidents in this episodic book relate to one another in a way that vaguely resembles a plot.
Ali Aziz and his hot wife Margot, owners of an upscale strip club called the Leopard Lounge, are in the middle of an ugly divorce. They are fighting over money. They are fighting over custody of their son, Nicky. Independently, each decides it would be nifty if the other were dead.
On their routine patrols, members of the Crows keep stumbling over bits and pieces of the murder plots. But will they put it together before it’s too late?
Wambaugh knows this turf; he was a Los Angels cop for nearly 20 years. During that time, he wrote some of his best novels, including The New Centurions, and his nonfiction best seller, The Onion Field.
After 13 years without a new book, he returned in 2006 with the stylish police procedural ‘‘Hollywood Station.’’
Hollywood Crows has its moments, but suffers by comparison.