Patterico's Pontifications


Odds and Ends After a Day of Travel

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:45 am

I was traveling yesterday, as I return to work today. I didn’t get to finish a number of posts I’ve got on the back burner. Here are a few random notes from my day of travel.

Hollywood Station

I have read all of Joseph Wambaugh’s nonfiction books. “The Onion Field” is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and along with Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter,” helped inspire me to become a prosecutor.

But I had never read any of Wambaugh’s fiction until now. Yesterday, on one of our plane rides, I finished “Hollywood Station,” which came out in November. Mrs. P. and my daughter got it for me for Christmas.

It’s a great book. It’s even more realistic than Michael Connelly’s books. This is the kind of book that could have been written only by someone who has actually worked as a Los Angeles Police Officer. Everything in it rings true.

I’m officially hooked on Wambaugh and will now be checking out his other fiction books as soon as I get a chance.

The Illusionist

On the other plane ride, we watched “The Illusionist” with Edward Norton. I am a big fan of Norton’s; I consider him to be one of the more talented, interested, and intelligent actors out there. The film was good. It might have been even better if the flight crew had not started droning on about their lack of gate connection information — at the precise dramatic climax of the movie.


I’ve had ongoing problems with the spam filter, and some legitimate comments have been swallowed up in it. I try to check it every so often and approve them. But if this happens to you, write me and let me know.

However, if your comment is nothing more than a set of insults directed at me personally, made from behind a veil of anonymity — and especially if it is also chock-full of provable falsehoods and makes veiled insinuations about trying to affect my real-life activities — you don’t have a right to comment here, and your tripe may be sitting in moderation. I will probably publish your comment anyway, as it pleases me; comments like that usually help discredit the cause of the person making them. But don’t be totally surprised if you made all that effort to write all those dishonest, threatening comments and they go nowhere.

David E.

I wasn’t talking about David E. in the previous item. But for those who can’t get enough of him, and miss him since he’s been banned here, there is a comment thread at Cathy’s World here featuring an exchange between him and me regarding gay marriage in California. This guy needs a remedial civics class . . .

20 Responses to “Odds and Ends After a Day of Travel”

  1. Have you read L.A. Rex by your former colleague Will Beall? He’s being called “the next Wambaugh,” so you might like it.

    Professor Chaos (cafd44)

  2. Serious question, intended respectfully: why would you ban someone from your site, then continue to debate him on another?

    [It’s a fair question. I just happened to feel like doing it. It’s not like it’s going to be a regular thing. It was an obvious waste of my time. He didn’t understand a thing I said about the relationship between initiatives and legislation. — P]

    Dana (3e4784)

  3. You had to go blabbing what was a secret pleasure to those of us in the CathySphere. Now we’ll be overrun with the insatiably curious. Cathy’s server will crash with all the demand to see the wit and wisdom of David “The Giant Penis Guy” Ehrenstein.

    Curse you for exposing our hidden Shangri-La!

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  4. Will Beall? Was that guy a former reporter? If so, I may have worked with him in San Diego.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  5. Gotta agree about “The Onion Field”; one of the few books of it’s kind that I want to read again every few years.

    Old Coot (581b7e)

  6. Joseph Wambaugh is a great police writer. I recommend that you “start” with his earliest work — “The Blue Knight” and “The New Centurions” and then follow him chronologically because, in addition to great story-telling, it is valid cultural history. The movies, “The Onion Field” with James Woods, “The Blue Knight” with William Holden and “The New Centurions” with Stacey Keach were just as good as the books. Especially “The Onion Field”. Wambaugh exercised a lot of control in how that movie was made because he knew the officers involved personally and he did not want them misrepresented. In any case, even his worst book is better than James Elroy’s best. Always worth the money and, even more importantly, the time.

    nk (50d578)

  7. If you’re going to read Wambaugh’s fiction, start with his first novel, “The New Centurions”.

    Wambaugh’s had an interesting life as he moved from being an LAPD Sergeant to a professional writer. Having money and ultimately even more money in Southern California means upgrading your housing. As Wambaugh has moved to Pasadena, and then to Newport and then down to San Diego the venues for his novels changed over time. He might be talking about old Pasadena money and the dog handling world, about moneyed ladies and trophy wives in Newport Beach, or about crime on the waterfront and smuggling in San Diego (I seem to recall a novel or two set in Palm Springs as well)–but all of his work is interesting and each novel reflects a particular scene. He’s a good social observer of people and communities as well as of police departments.

    I liked Hollywood Station; the plot was a bit thin, but it served as a framework on which to string anecdotes or stories apparently taken from real police life, i.e. a gang banger’s pit bull stricken with terminal cancer committing “suicide by cop”. They may not necessarily advance the plot, but they were stories too good to be left out.

    Wambaugh’s almost 70, but he still has the touch.

    Mike Myers (4d9a65)

  8. I have to agree about *The Onion Field* as well. I remember picking it up off the shelf at a friend’s party and immediately becoming absorbed in it: I borrowed it from her and read it over the same weekend.
    The one thing from that book that still stands out for me is the scene with the crusty old patrol officer at roll call: LAPD has just issued a directive that an officer should never, ever, surrender their gun, and the old guy stands up and declares, in front of the watch commander and everyone else, that this is a chickens–t rule. “You f—in well leave it up to the man on the spot.”
    Which, when you think about it, is a pretty good approach to management in general.

    Dwight Brown (87a134)

  9. Seems like the old guys keep leaving the new guys in the dust. I haven’t read Wambaugh, but Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake keep putting out one great novel after another.

    Jim Treacher (15574e)

  10. You know, Jim, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. “Tell them, ‘Valdez is coming'” is my third favorite line from a movie, after “When you side with a man you stick with him otherwise you’re some kind of animal”, from “The Wild Bunch” and “And I will show you where the Iron Crosses grow” from “Cross of Iron”.

    nk (50d578)

  11. P.S.:

    Forgive for going off topic, Patterico, but when you think of great older movies like “Hombre” or “Cross of Iron”, you realize that the problem with Hollywood these days is not a dearth of acting or directorial talent but a dearth of creativity — lack of good writers.

    nk (50d578)

  12. I finished Hollywood Station last week, it also was a Christmas present… I liked it very much, though I agree it was a bit thin… I remember thinking the ending was lame and now I can’t even remember the ending.

    Regardless, I’m especially impressed that Wambaugh can remain current on the LAPD and the culture, being such an old guy and away from the department for so long. He’s truly amazing, and as NK & Mike say, you gotta read all his stuff, and start with his earliest.

    Susan R (0e8ac8)

  13. Patterico, I missed your 10/19 post (linked in the previous post), which I generally agree with.

    You should leave David E alone. I’d like to get along with everyone also, but some other folks don’t want to get along. Attempting to get along with folks that do not want to get along is wasted time.

    Dwilkers (4f4ebf)

  14. Why would you ban a person, then debate them on another site? Because I can, given ability to debate. I have noticed who can debate and who can not, and believe me, it is not the “left” that qualifies. Patt would tear me to shreds, ergo, no reason to debate him. I just watch and learn.

    Rik (1496df)

  15. Uhmm … in case you righties don’t know, there happens to a big game tonight. I hate to break up your book club … fan club … whatever … but there’s a lil thing somne of us men take an interest in called football.

    But just to show some good will, I’ll help you all out with a lil investment advice … take the Gators and the 7 points.

    Macswain (76d8da)

  16. Patterico, you’re in for a treat with the Wambaugh novels. I’ll echo the advice I’ve read already and advise you to start with the earliest stuff, which is the best, IMO. My recommendations:

    The New Centurions: not my favorite. Covers the time period of the LA Watts riots. Good discussions of racism and left/right politics.

    The Blue Knight: great book, great descriptions of food and cop meals.

    The Choirboys: police corruption in Rampart division. Great characters.

    The Black Marble: more great characters, and cop problems/alcoholism. The writers of M*A*S*H ripped off the subplot of this book for the final episode of that TV show.

    The Delta Star: From a later period, much of the action takes place at CalTech University. Time period was when Rose Bird of infamous memory was the CA Supreme Court Chief Justice, with appropriate commentary by Wambaugh’s cops.

    I recommend all of the above. The other titles didn’t leave as much impression as these.

    Robert (91f2c5)

  17. I’ve been a diehard Wambaugh fan since day one. He is that rare storyteller who writes both great fiction and non-fiction.

    Don’t forget The Blooding, his astonishing real story of the first use of DNA to catch and prosecute a murderer.

    martin (fb2430)

  18. Wambaugh bought his Pasadena house from friends of mine. I’ve enjoyed all his novels. You might also look at WEB Griffin’s police series. They’re all about the Philadelphia PD. I was impressed to see them on sale in the FBI Academy bookstore in Quantico. They were set in the 1970s until te last one and he just moved the characters to the present.

    Mike K (416363)

  19. I heartily agree about Edward Norton, sir. One of my favorites as well. I can always appreciate actors who aren’t celebrities.

    Russell (7519ba)

  20. Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen has an interesting reading list for a course on Law and Literature. Here’s the link:

    Timothy (17683a)

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