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The Onion Field by [Wambaugh, Joseph]
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The Onion Field Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A complex story of tragic proportions... more ambitious than In Cold Blood and equally compelling!" -- The New York Times


From the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

This is the frighteningly true story of two young cops and two young robbers whose separate destinies fatally cross one march night in a bizarre execution in a deserted Los Angeles field.

"A complex story of tragic proportions... more ambitious than In Cold Blood and equally compelling!" -- The New York Times


Product Details

  • File Size: 3787 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (November 26, 2008)
  • Publication Date: November 26, 2008
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001M5JVSE
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,870 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I lived in Los Angeles in 1963 and I've seen the movie several times, but not until I picked up a used copy of the book out of the Good Will this last week did I read the written account. As usual, the book is ten times better than the movie. It's gripping and very hard to put down. The sadness of what happens to the surviving police detective is so frustrating and seems, today, so unnecessary. Of course, we forget that seeking help from therapists and even talking about your innermost fears(called "burdening others" with your problems), etc. were not the vogue in 1963. If they had been, this story might have ended differently. I was particularly interested in the author's references to local landmarks which made the story come alive for me. What makes it eerier is that the area of the onion field where the murder took place is not all that far from the city but even so, it's strictly away from city life, kind of up in the hills, pitch dark at night and isolated with nothing but a big lonely highway running through surrounding fields growing a variety of crops. Oddly enough, regarding the two sleazoid criminals, at times they seemed more intelligent than some of the defense attorneys. Fantastic story! I predict it will stay with you for days after reading it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Onion Field is a top shelf book. It's the in-depth analysis of the true story of a 1963 event in Los Angeles. Two cops pull over two crooks in an otherwise routine traffic stop. But the desperate crooks get the drop on the cops, get their guns, kidnap them, drive them out to an onion field in the countryside, and murder one of them. One of the cops escapes death, but is haunted by guilt over the death of his partner and his inability to help. The murderers are captured, tried, convicted, and then retried over and over again on appeal.
The surviving cop is further savaged when the LAPD uses the case in training as an example of all the wrong things a cop can do when stopping and approaching cars.
Haunted by horrific memories, saddened by the loss of his partner, wracked by guilt, ostracized by his own, and repeatedly tormented by defense attorneys in one retrial after another, the cop suffers emotional meltdown. Wambaugh, takes us meticulously through the crime, second by second, and then tells the surviving cop's powerful and moving story: the destruction of a forgotten victim. This is as good as it gets. --Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.
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By A Customer on August 6, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an interesting book. See the movie, too. People mention Capote's IN COLD BLOOD in previous reviews, and Wambaugh used that book as a model for this one, and even used Capote's release forms to get interviews. Wambaugh could not get the surviving cop to tell the story so that Wambaugh could write the book. When Wambaugh told him about this book idea, and how it wasn't going to happen, Capote encouraged him to keep at it. So, with Capote's encouragement, Wambaugh finally got the surviving cop to cooperate, and the book got written. The whole subtext of the book is what I find fascinating, and that is: the surviving cop, who could not help his partner being killed, felt guilt that destroyed him emotionally. But the actual murderer and his partner felt no guilt whatsoever. Psychopaths can not feel guilt, even after they've murdered. The innocent man felt guilty, and the guilty men felt innocent. It's an incredible and wrenching and tragic contrast that underlies this whole book. I recommend it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The cruel slaying of LAPD Officer Ian Campbell and the sadistic hunt for his surviving partner, Karl Hettinger in a Bakersfield onion field is vividly recounted in this Wambaugh non-fiction classic. Additionally, in-depth and fascinating studies are made of the cold-blooded killers, Gregory Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. Finally, the heartbreaking psychological deterioration of Officer Karl Hettinger, a victim of survivor's guilt and hard-nosed, ignorant superiors is recounted in painful detail. An agonizing, dark, and horrible page in California history.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book many years ago. Last week, while I was browsing through used books in a Goodwill Store, I came across a hardbound copy in pristine condition. It was selling for $2.00. Needless to say, without hesitation, I bought it. I found myself an absolute treasure. Without a doubt in my mind, this is easily the finest non-fiction story of crime and retribution I have ever read, gripping and haunting thoughout. Only one other non-fiction crime story comes close to it, and that is SWORDFISH by David McClintick. If this book can be purchased, do so without hesitation. Jay Wickramasinghe, Citrus Heights, California
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Master Storyteller Joseph Wambaugh shifts from fiction to non-fiction for this riveting account of the execution of a Los Angeles police officer and its aftermath. This excellent book was brought to the screen in a fairly accurate rendition starring James Woods and Ted Danson at the beginnings of their respective careers. Of the book I must say that my realization of the identity of the gardener late in the narrative was one of the most moving and dramatic experiences of my reading life. Wambaugh is a genius!
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