Heavy-going in Hollywood

2010-06-16 00:00


Hollywood Moon

Joseph Wambaugh


EVERY time one of Joseph Wambaugh’s novels arrives on my desk for review, I open it eagerly, remembering the pleasure of reading some of his early ­fictions (The Blue Knight and The Black Marble, for example) and non­fictions (The Onion Field, Echoes in the Darkness). Alas, these days, there’s always a let-down, and despite the raves on the cover (“Deliriously entertaining fiction,” etc.), the Hollywood series, of which this one is the third, falls particularly flat.

The setting is Hollywood Police Station, and the main characters are Hollywood cops, who don’t, of course, police your typical cop beat. Los Angeles’ “most surreal” police precinct is populated by weirdos: midgets-for-hire, steroid-pumped monsters, costumed crackheads, drag queens, you name it. And the police themselves are unusual, including wannabe movie stars, surfers and oddballs, with the occasional serious police-person thrown in.

It’s all very jolly, couched in jokey and often unfathomable Hollywood slang, and though there are elements of good storytelling — because Wambaugh was, once, a great story-teller — it gets very tiring indeed.

Some of the obviously authentic vignettes of the Hollywood underworld are mildly amusing. And the main storyline, about a fraudster couple who specialise in mailbox theft and stealing credit cards, and who’d do fine if their hired help ­weren’t a serial sex attacker, might have been both amusing and interesting. But, dear me, it’s heavy, heavy, soporifically heavy. Such a pity.

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