By an L.A. cop about L.A. cops, a debut novel that could use a warning label: Strong Stomach Mandatory.
The sign in the 77th Precinct (South Central L.A.) reads “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here,” and as young Ben Halloran takes his seat with the other “pimply probationers” (recent Police Academy grads), he acknowledges to himself that he’s rattled. It’s a condition that intensifies when he learns he’s partnered with living legend Miguel Marquez, an officer to whom hard was a way station en route to impervious. But to the surprise of both, they bond, discovering in each other a kinship of character that sets them apart from most of their brothers. Ben does have his secrets, however. His name isn’t really Halloran, for one thing—it’s Kahn; and he’s the only son of the most flamboyant, most successful, least popular defense lawyer in the city—ask any of the cops he’s sweated during the course of a long and largely unprincipled career. Ben doesn’t much like his father, which is one reason he’s chosen to go incognito; another has to do with his tangled relationships in the world of gangbangers and gangsta-rappers—that dangerous, ultra-violent world where “applied treachery” is a self-taught survival skill. Ben has roots in it, old loyalties that both protect and ensnare, and that he struggles to be free of. In the meantime, not unlike knights-errant, Ben and Marquez sortie out from the 77th, daily, contending with dragons and ogres—druggies and stone killers—until at last Ben earns Marquez’s ultimate accolade: “You’re a cop now, Ben. . . . And I think, maybe, that’s a little like being a Catholic, you can’t get shorn of it.”
Murder, torture, dismemberment in gratuitous profusion: Beall, still a working cop, is also a talented writer, but this is ugly stuff.