Bracing, eventful cop-talk memoir that’s politically in the Duck Dynasty neighborhood.

THE DUCK THEORY

Veteran LA police officer Rupp files his personal and highly opinionated report of a long career patrolling the region’s most violent ghettos and compromised precincts.

Like a drill instructor terrorizing cadets on their first day—which he has done—first-time author Rupp isn’t really all that bad, but he puts his political opinions right up front. In no fewer than 180 chapters, this memoir covers his decades as a lawman patrolling the roughest slum districts of Compton, Watts, Lynwood and South Central Los Angeles from the late 1960s to the ’90s, usually as part of the Sheriff’s Department, with a sideline in training new recruits. He loved the job, even when it put him in the center of protests, office back-stabbing and racially tinged “terrorism” by militants such as the Black Panthers. The writer despises the news media for stereotyping police brutality and turning criminals into victims. He has no sympathy for street gangs and their apologists; he refuses to identify the distinct “youth groups” by name, as that would show too much respect. He doesn’t care for behind-the-scenes power blocs, and he hates the hemp-heads pushing for marijuana legalization. He does support suspect profiling. The title references the adage that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. Just replace “duck” with a shifty black youth in sagging pants with a gun stuck in the waistband when a robbery has just been committed, and you’ll get the picture. (“Check the unskewed stats,” he says.) However, Rupp says a lot of people won’t get the picture, and he offers the scoop that municipalities (Compton especially) have fudged crime stats. Some of his non-PC contrarianism is sublime: Rupp defends Michael Vick, since dogfights for sport are routine in the ’hood, and if that’s the worst thing Vick’s ever done, then he’s a much better man than most “thugs” recruited as pro athletes. Rupp’s youthful job apprenticeship as a meat-cutter helped him get through the gruesome stuff, but the memoir isn’t all heavy and horror. He describes going undercover to spook the “lingering transient homosexuals” out of an established gay neighborhood; his post-retirement bodyguarding for celebrities, including the Dixie Chicks; and on-the-job pranks as ritual hazing for superiors and cadets alike. Behind the name-calling, score-settling and tributes to fallen comrades, one senses that Rupp speaks truth when he says he doesn’t care what color people are as long as they act as responsible, respectful citizens. Though when it comes to liberals, he considers his mission “to irritate you and the rest of your kind.” So-called “effeminate lackeys” are especially likely to close this case.

Bracing, eventful cop-talk memoir that’s politically in the Duck Dynasty neighborhood.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495427305

Page Count: 566

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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