Published by Sphere on May 21st 1987
Ex-cop turned #1 New York Times bestselling writer Joseph Wambaugh forged a new kind of literature with his great early police procedurals. Gritty, luminous, and ultimately stunning, this novel is Wambaugh at his besta tale of a street cop on the hardest beat of his life.
Twenty and two. Those are the numbers turning in the mind of William "Bumper" Morgan: twenty years on the job, two days before he "pulls the pin" and walks away from it forever. But on the gritty streets of L.A., people look at Bumper like some kind of knight in armorthey've plied him with come-ons, hot tips, and the hard respect a man can't earn anywhere else. Now, with a new job and a good woman waiting for him, a kinky thief terrorizing L.A.'s choice hotels, and a tragedy looming, Bumper Morgan is about to face the only thing that can scare him: the demons that he's been hiding behind his bright and shiny badge...
There must be something in this book to keep me reading through to the end, it might have been that I wanted to find out if the protagonist actually managed to retire in one piece or it might have been the writing.
Bumper Morgan is an LAPD patrolman, he’s decided he’s going to retire on Friday after 20 year’s service. This book is written through his eyes and so we see how he feels about his job, the people who run restaurants and the people he arrests. It’s not pretty, at least from my point of view it’s not pretty. Let me explain.
He likes his job, he’s been doing it for 20 years so he has longevity and experience. He prefers to foot patrol the same area but he’s obese and doesn’t listen to the doctors telling him to lose weight so has trouble walking, they put him in a patrol car. They give him a specific area to patrol in the car, he often leaves the area. In this car he’s got a radio back to base, he generally turns it off.
He likes the people who run restaurants, he should, they feed him. From his point of view it’s accepted that restaurants in his patch should feed him, and feed him they do. He eats three meals a day that he barely pays for, three meals that are large enough for three or four people. Is it a wonder he’s obese? While he’s eating the owners (and their children) of these food establishments watch him. Why do they watch him? He thinks it’s because they like to see him eat. If it were me I would be watching in disgust to see someone put away so much food and not pay for it, but these people probably have learned not to show this emotion on their faces.
And we see his distaste for the people he arrests. We see how he treats informants, he actually does give them money and tries to cover up where he got the information from.
Essentially I didn’t like the protagonist. To me he’s an awful man who assumes he knows everything and assumes he’s great, I feel he presumes far too much for someone with such great power. So why did I finish reading it? Why did I get to the bitter end when I don’t like much of what I’m reading? If it were a love story I wouldn’t have made it past chapter two but it isn’t. I was wondering what kind of mistakes he makes but the writing was good.
I found Wambaugh’s webpage and it turns out this book is one of three books he wrote while still working in the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) before he got famous. It’s highly possible that all the things I’m complaining about are things that actually happened, this would explain why I stayed. Good research often leads to good writing and he had the best research, actually living the life. The bit I liked reading on his website is this page where he talks about how he currently does his research. Something to note for any writers wondering how to research some point in particular.