Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh

Publication Date: November 26, 2006


JW_Hollywood_StationIn Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh, readers are introduced to the first Hollywood Station novel, to the colorful characters of the LAPD’s Hollywood division. While there is an overlying plot involving a jewelry store robbery, this book is more about the cop who is an aspiring actor, the wise and time-worn dispatcher, the breastfeeding mother returning to work and two cops who would rather be following the waves. As the Oracle says, “Police work can be the most fun you ever had.”




I promised you, dear readers, that I would warn you if I reviewed an author that I cannot help, but fangirl it. Consider yourself warned.

“For a cop, a night on the job means killing time and trying not to get killed.” (dust jacket). I don’t think any sentence better sums up this series. There is an overlying plotline in this book, but it’s more or less little vignettes of life on the streets for the officers of the Hollywood Station.

Hollywood Station opens with the two cops at the heart of the series meeting (okay, so some folks think Hollywood Nate is the heart of the series, but I think it’s Flotsam and Jetsam, and this is my blog so it’s official!). Jetsam is coming from the horse division where he was hurt and meets his surfer soul mate in Flotsam. They bond over their failed marriages and the idea that the sea heals all. You know that these guys are going to be awesome entertainment when Jetsam recounts his horse (“that jerk that bucked him”), having to be put down and with tears in his eyes tells Flotsam that “horses are assholes.” These characters are fully realized man-boy, beach-bums-in-uniform, and I love them.

I don’t know if I’ve expressed this to you yet, dear readers, but I like me a good baddie. Give me someone truly crazy or someone I can feel a little sorry for, and I’m all on board. Wambaugh seems to share my preference. This book involved a couple of baddies and they’re not all sympathetic, but they’re just enough of the storyline and just enough on the edge of out-of-control that you can really sink your reading teeth into them. If baddies du jour aren’t your taste, let’s just move on to the next event where Darth Vader is selling heroin out of his helmet in front of the Grauman’s Theater.

Did I open that door? Now I have to go there. After reading these books, never again, will I look at people in costumes the same way. Each book contains brilliantly orchestrated scenes involving the actors who dress up for tourist cash — Spiderman and Marilyn in a knock-down fight on the sidewalk. Take a moment for that mental picture.

Wambaugh’s treatment of the nursing cop in Hollywood Station could have been trite but was done in a very realistic and sensitive manner, it didn’t rob the character of any of her power. A few weeks ago, on this blog, I discussed the ability of an author to write the opposite gender and Wambaugh would be an example of an author who does it beautifully. He paints strong female characters who — though we only have known them a short time—we want to succeed. They’re strong and honorable, they’ve earned their place on the force and any man who doubts that had better watch out.

There is a seedy underbelly of grit in the books very typical of this genre but there’s a good dose of humor which, I think, offsets the violence for the more squeamish reader. There are those haunting moments as with any serious mystery. Moments that read as real in the narrative which I, for one, wish I hadn’t read. Those moments add to the real aspect of police work in what can seem a more or less unreal district. Closing this book, we have the knowledge that while this is fiction, we have a sense of maybe a sliver of what a real cop faces on a daily basis which perhaps, made me respect these people in uniform even more.

Hollywood Station is a wonderful start to the series. And if you’re like me, once read, you will rush to read the other three. I have no negative comments or complaints about any aspect of this series. I eagerly awaited the release of Wambaugh’s second book featuring characters introduced in the Hollywood Cop series. Read our review of the second book in the series, Harbor Nocturne.

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About Joseph Wambaugh
For more information on Joseph Wambaugh and his work, visit his website and his profile page on Hollywood Station Novels. You can connect with him on Goodreads and on Facebook. Series readers can track his books on FictFact.

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