Wambaugh, Joseph. Hollywood Hills.

NY: Little, Brown, 2010.

The author’s method with the “Hollywood Station” series, of which this is the fourth installment, is to gradually develop one or two plotlines involving more serious crimes, whether white-collar or drug-addled, and to alternate the complex working-out of those with numerous anecdotes (which Wambaugh famously collects from cops everywhere), character sketches (both cops and bad guys), and mordantly funny episodes.

For instance, the “street characters” who hang out in the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese, subsisting on tips from tourists in return for posing for snapshots with them, are highly competitive among themselves and are always good for a few chortles. And there are always several decidedly non-funny, often rather gruesome events that can bring you back to earth in a hurry. This time, half the focus is on Nigel Wickland, greedy art dealer, who plots to steal two million-dollar paintings from a wealthy widow by replacing them with first-rate copies while she’s in Europe. To this end, he ropes in Raleigh Dibble, the widow’s butler/chef/chauffeur who is also caregiver to her aged brother-in-law. Raleigh is a white-collar ex-con and not really a bad person, but he’s fifty-eight and doesn’t have much of a future to look forward to, so he agrees to assist in the scam. Meanwhile, we have Jonas Claymore, a self-absorbed druggie with dreams of criminal success far beyond his actual abilities, and twenty-year-old Megan Burke, who came down to Hollywood from Oregon a year ago to experience “life” and got caught up in the wrong kind. Now she’s as addicted to Oxycontin as Jonas is, but at least she knows she’s failed herself. The two plotlines eventually and naturally spiral around each other until Jonas opportunistically hijacks Wicklund’s van with the stolen paintings in it — and then things really get complicated. Wambaugh has long been one of the best “cop story” writers around, combining realism with a sort of fantasy when it comes to Los Angeles, all of it leavened with pointed observations on life and cheerful humor. I’m surprised none of the books in this hugely entertaining series have made it to the silver screen yet.

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Published in: on 30 April 2011 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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