One word: wow! Wambaugh is back - big time. A stripped down masterpiece of what it means to "protect and serve" in post-Rodney King LA, rendered with the passion and conviction that only an ex-cop like Wambaugh could muster. "Hollywood Station" will make you laugh, the petty politics and bureaucratic meddling will frustrate you, the heroics and camaraderie of understaffed and overworked street cops will make you proud, but most of all, the tales of "Hollyweird's" sleaze, glitz, crime and justice will keep the pages turning at the pace of high speed chase.
The plot spins loosely around the hand grenade-robbery of a jewelry store by Russian mobsters and the antics of a pair of burned out meth freaks, Farley and "Olive Oyl" Ramsdale. But the plot is only a convenient backdrop for Wambaugh to showcase a colorful collection of characters on both sides of the law. Told through a "Hill Street Blues-like" series of vignettes of the patrolmen and women of LA's Hollywood station, the legendary station sergeant, "the Oracle", dispenses wisdom honed by over forty years on LA's mean streets, playing mom, dad, coach and priest to his young troopers. But seemingly disconnected storylines weave together in time for a slick and satisfying conclusion, complete with a neat and unexpected little twist. Reading Wambaugh again after such a long hiatus reminds me that the popular crime writers of today - Connelly, Lehane, Crais - are beholden to Wambaugh much like "Flotsam and Jetsam", "Hollywood" Nate Weiss, Budgie Polk, and the other fictional officers to Hollywood station are in debt to "the Oracle." Gritty and realistic, this long awaited return was worth every minute, a heartfelt and poignant tribute to LAPD's finest. As the Oracle would say, "go on out tonight and have some fun," and read this book.