FUGITIVE NIGHTS by Joseph Wambaugh


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Wambaugh (The Golden Orange, 1990, etc.) returns to a familiar venue: glittering Palm Springs, its cops, and nearby desert canyons. This is at heart a comic novel (though not as antic as a Donald Westlake) that depends mostly on vulgar police humor for its laughs. Wambaugh circles about one of his favorite recent heroes, the alcoholic cop who will strive for recovery before story's end. Detective Lynn Cutter has screwed up so heartily with the Palm Springs PD that he is awaiting his disability pension after 20 years in the service and, while nursing his busted and irreparable knees, house-sits the mansions of wealthy local owners and drinks up his earnings at The Furnace Room, a dingy hangout for faded actors and washed-out entertainment folk. Breda Burrows, herself an ex-cop with 20 years service and now trying to make a go of her newly opened private investigation office, hires Cutter to moonlight and help out with a fresh ease that has too many leads for her to handle alone. That case, which takes up a lot of time, turns out to be a red herring in terms of much action or tension, while the hard villainy remains largely in the background until the last pages and then reverses itself to plead for the reader's sympathy. The first case is a domestic surveillance in which a postmenopausal childless wife wants her millionaire husband shadowed: She knows that the old guy has made a secret deposit at a sperm bank and is apparently thinking of in vitro fertilization with a surrogate. The second case is darker: A bald Mexican drug smuggler who's hiding out in Palm Springs somehow seems tied in with the millionaire. The two detectives are joined by Nelson Hareem, a legendary screw-up from a neighboring police force, who lusts to join the Palm Springs PD by solving the drug-smuggler case. The climax is a golf-cart chase during the Bob Hope golf classic. The thuggish jokery does not endear. Wambaugh cannot write a total wipeout but this is not among his strongest or more durable works.
Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-11128-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1991


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