Wambaugh's pleasing new police procedural (Floaters, 1996, etc.) is a series of comic vignettes featuring a particularly idiosyncratic and beleaguered division of the LAPD—the Hollywood Station.
The Hollywood beat constitutes plenty of drug-addled nuts, panhandlers, erratic, unpredictable rich people and murderous elements of gangs and the Russian mafia. Covering it all in style is the jolly, motley mix of rookies and veterans that make up LAPD's Hollywood, taking their orders from the Oracle, a kindly old sarge who has a genius for coupling partners on patrol. There are the two youngish surfer types, nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam, whose funny, natural, shoot-the-shit dialogue opens the novel. There’s Vietnam vet and senior patrol officer Fausto Gamboa, who remembers fondly the days before the force was beaten by civil lawsuits, and when women didn't routinely work patrol assignments, and his 27-year-old partner, Officer Budgie Polk, just returned from maternity leave and regularly using her breast pump. There's Japanese-American female officer Mag Takara, athletic, diminutive and fearless, paired with extra-tall, black officer Benny Brewster; during a jewelry-store robbery, Mag picks up a grenade and tosses it aside—before they learn it's a fake. And there's Hollywood Nate Weiss, so-called because of his work as a cinematic extra, paired with rookie Wesley Drubb, son of real-estate developers, bored with his pampered life and eager to experience something real. Meanwhile, the petty criminals move in, including local crystal-meth dope, mailbox thief and two-bit counterfeiter Farley Ramsdale and his dimwitted girlfriend, Olive Oly; and jewelry thief Cosmo Betrossian, who tries to pawn stolen diamonds off on the Russian owner of the hot-spot The Gulag. Terrific characterization makes up for the sparseness of plot.
Former LAPD detective Wambaugh returns to his roots for a hilarious review of today’s police force.