HARBOR NOCTURNE by Joseph Wambaugh


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The harbor district of San Pedro turns out to be just as jam-packed with dangerous criminals, clueless cops and variously complicit citizens as anywhere else in Wambaugh’s storied Hollywood Division.

Young and ambitious, Sgt. Thaddeus Hawthorne of Hollywood Vice thinks he sees a way to put pressure on Hector Cozzo, an errand boy for a gang that’s smuggling and prostituting illegals: Persuade the surfer officer universally known as Jetsam to use his amputated foot to ingratiate himself with a shadowy Russian associate with a fixation on amputations. If this sounds like a crazy idea, it’s no goofier than what goes on during a normal Hollywood shift. A fight among superhero panhandlers leads to the hot pursuit of a purse snatcher. A domestic violence call discloses a kinky sex contract gone wrong. A homeless man beds down in a dumpster that’s already hosting a corpse. In the middle of this junkyard, a flower struggles to bloom: the unlikely romance between Lita Medina Flores, an incoming Mexican illegal hired to dance even though she’s a terrible dancer, and Dinko Babich, the old school friend Hector pays to deliver her to Club Samara. When Lita sees and hears one detail too many about the deaths of a dozen Asian women in a cargo container, Dinko helps her escape and stashes her in his mother’s house as Hector’s seriously ruffled bosses start looking for her. The sideshow acts Wambaugh presents mix legal justice and rough justice, laughter and tears, so inventively that it’s hard to tell until the very end who’ll come out on top.

A welcome recovery from the middling Hollywood Hills (2010), with enough juice for one wild miniseries.

Pub Date: April 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2610-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2012


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