Diverting mix of crime reports, cop talk, Chicago politics, and gyrations of a young Chicago Tribune reporter trying to fit in with new colleagues and still ``make a difference.'' After a sudden transfer to the police reporters' office (known as the ``Cop Shop''), Blau found an antique atmosphere, with one detective chain-smoking Larks and snoozing as ashes fell on his wide lapels. At the time, popular Harold Washington was Chicago's mayor, and he had appointed another African-American, LeRoy Brown, as police chief (though Brown seemed to boast no outstanding achievements). The author's first big case kicked off when he asked Brown why Chicago, as was generally believed, didn't have the major crack problem that other cities did. Blau was told that, by gang agreement, Chicago was by-passed so the gangs would have a peaceful transshipment area for their wares. But as soon as Blau went into the poor neighborhoods, the real story was in his face: drive-by shootings; fortresses in public houses; thousand-pound shipments of crack-cocaine; a building protected by 12 dealer-cops; six different hands with illicit product reaching into his car window: ``Word up! Shit be killah!'' The nonproblem, it seems, was a conspiracy between the police department, the local paper, and apparently, the middle class, who happily swallowed canards as long as they didn't have to think about them. Blau follows up this revelation with many tales of individual fate (including his own acceptance in the Cop Shop), displaying an active mind and a yen for the occasionally heavy cognitive workout. An agile report that outclasses Mitch Gelman's comparable Crime Scene (1992).
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