CRIME SCENE: On the Streets with a Rookie Police Reporter by Mitch Gelman

CRIME SCENE: On the Streets with a Rookie Police Reporter

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A tumultuous year (1989) in the life of a cub crime-reporter for New York Newsday. Unlike the comparable chronicles of Miami Herald reporter Edna Buchanan, Gelman's calendar-driven memoir emphasizes not the crimes he covered but his responses to them. And that's a shame, because the author's childhood infatuation with reporting (influence of a magazine-editor dad); awe at desking-down at One Police Plaza and working with Jimmy Breslin; rage at police-department politics; delight at falling in love with a fellow reporter; growing cynicism in the face of a year's worth of mean streets, and so on, simply aren't sufficiently novel, charming, or instructive to warrant in-depth coverage. What does demand attention are Gelman's convincing descriptions of a big-city reporter's grind--being available around the clock; racing into savage neighborhoods for a scoop; pushing against deadline to massage raw notes into a serviceable story. And when, infrequently, he does cover a crime and its aftermath in depth--the trials of the widow of a cop shot into a coma; the tragedy of a ten-year-old rape victim--Gelman displays the sort of clean-limbed, affecting prose that presumably made him a valued tabloid crime-reporter (he's since moved on to covering urban affairs). At times, moreover, he weighs in with startling insights--as in his analysis of detectives: ""They spend so many hours trying to understand the criminal mind that they develop similar traits. They are skeptical of everyone and everything. Whether they are charming, slick, hot or cold, they always have an angle...."" Too often, though, Gelman's self-absorbed approach gets in the way of the terrific stories he has to tell; for the real mcoxie, read Buchanan.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Times Books