Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joseph Wambaugh, Master of the Police Procedural

A former detective sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department, Joseph Wambaugh is considered the master of the police procedural. In fact, in 2004, he was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. He has written numerous best-selling novels and nonfiction, including The Onion Field.

I read several of his early books, including the nonfiction, The Onion Field, but have to admit I have not taken time to read many his later ones.

On his website under his first book, The New Centurions, he has these words:

“The New Centurions is fiction, but everything in it is real.
The New Centurions: a novel about policemen by a policeman. Tough, but compassionate, it’ll make you understand--perhaps for the first time--what it’s really like to be a cop.”

That was in 1971 when I read The New Centurions and at that time I was happily married to a Southern California cop, raising our family. And because I was a cop’s wife, I found the book to be upsetting despite the fact the work was one of fiction—and well written. Too much of it was too real and threatening to a young cop’s young wife. It was like a disturbing look behind the scenes of what often went on in a cop’s life, and what happened on the streets of Los Angeles. Down and dirty, dark and ugly, dangerous and risky. Just the sort of things you want to think about every time your husband puts on his uniform, his gun belt and badge, and goes to work, day shift, or night shift, and sometimes a different shift nearly daily, and all the while you tend to your young children, pretending that all is really going to be okay. I had been a cop’s wife for about six years at that point. He became a reserve police officer in our third year of marriage and then a full time officer two years later. He was a patrolman, a detective, a Lieutenant, a Captain, and retired out after nearly 30 years. Also at times he was Acting Chief. We had been divorced a few years before his retirement after 25 years of marriage.

I had enough exposure to the police life in a small Southern California department only miles away from Los Angeles, that I often did not like what I saw happening with the officers and their families. A lot of marriages within the department were falling apart. For some, drinking became a problem, and for others, job stress led to emotional problems, including abuse.

But all of what I did experience during those early years of my first marriage actually gave me some great "fictional" material to use in my writing. I know when my late husband, Don Pendleton and I wrote Roulette, (a story about husband and wife cops in Southern California who are faced with a serial killer invading their community) some of my “cop” knowledge was invaluable and I believe those years were also helpful in writing Shattered Lens with my PI character, Catherine Winter, set in Los Angeles and Hollywood. I’m currently working on a second Catherine Winter novel.

So possibly you can understand how the “reality” of Joseph Wambaugh’s books could be a little unsettling to any police wife. Living in Southern California, already having the Watts Riot and a few other similar situations that happened in our “neighborhood,” it only re-enforced the reality of Wambaugh’s writing, the reality of a cop’s life on the streets, and even the political influences that had to be dealt with. I wanted to read Wambaugh’s books, but then again, a part of me did not.

Those early books, The New Centurions, The Blue Knight, The Choir Boys, and others, were discussed heavily among our social group of cops and wives. From what I recall, the wives thought a little differently about the stories than the men did. I say men, because at that time I believe we only had one police woman, a detective, on the department. Any other females within the department were civilian employees, such as dispatchers or secretaries.

Wambaugh refers to his books as police dramas. That they are. His latest books are a trilogy: Hollywood Station, Hollywood Crows, and Hollywood Moon.

Watch an inteview of Joseph Wambaugh by Keith Rawson, December 10th, 2009


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Publishing Industry Magazine

I have subscribed to the publishing industry magazine Publishers Weekly since 1985, and my husband had subscribed for several years prior to that.

But this year I do not plan to renew my subscription because it is expensive and the magazine has been cut down to 52 pages, and not worth the price in my mind. I’m going to miss it as I have read it over those twenty five years with the exception of two or three months. The print subscription is $250 bucks, well actually 51 issues for $249.99. Even the online subscription is close to $200 bucks. I can get 48 weekly issues of TV Guide for $20 and receive an additional 8 copies...yes 56 issues all for $20. Big, big difference.

I’m disappointed with Publishers Weekly magazine. In January 2009, Editor in Chief, Sara Nelson was laid off and four other staffers lost their positions as Reed Business Information restructured. Reed owns Variety and I understand there were heavy layoffs there, also. I don’t currently subscribe to Variety so not sure what impact that has had on the movie industry magazine.

Prior to 2005, the former Editor in Chief of PW had been there twelve years. I’ve not liked the changes to format that have gone on, and I do not like the lack of content in the current magazines. Even the advertising from publishers has been different. Maybe because the whole industry is in a “downturn” and not spending a lot on advertising, I would guess.

Hmm, could be even more reason for writers to self publish? Amazon’s Create Space and Kindle sounds more inviting every day to authors. Especially with all the cutbacks at publishers and then apparently agents not wanting to take on much, possibly assuming books are hard to sell right now.

I did notice that nonfiction sales (which are usually very good) came down a bit and fiction went up in 2009. Nielsen BookScan gave figures for sales in 2009 and adult nonfiction was down minus –6.4 %, and adult fiction was up 0.5 %. Both juvenile nonfiction and fiction were down a little, at -0.2 % and -0.6%. Consumers also went for trade paperbacks over hardcovers, a little more than 2 to 1. Hardly a surprise with hardcover prices as high as they are.

But it shouldn’t be much of a surprise in today’s world that fiction sales are up. People want an escape and good fiction will do just that. We can escape into the world of fictional characters and "ride along" with them as the story unfolds, and be entertained, freeing us of stress, and worry. Sounds good, doesn't it?


Friday, January 8, 2010

Elvis Presley...75

He’d be 75 years old. January 8, 1935.....the day Elvis Presley was born.

It is hard to believe all those years have passed since Elvis first sang Heartbreak Hotel in 1956, and long after his movie, Love Me Tender, hit the theatres. Tends to make one feel old!

A Sacramento radio station announced today they are changing their music format, beginning at 6:00 AM, Friday, January 8, 2010, and they will feature Elvis for the day.
K-Hits 92.1 FM "All Elvis, All Day" will debut Friday at 6 a.m., according to the station.

I have written about Elvis before, HERE and HERE.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

No Boundaries on Planet Earth

© Copyright 2010 by Ted Grussing

On Tuesday, January 5, 2010 my friend, Ted Grussing took to the air from the Sedona, Arizona airport and flew over Marble Canyon/Grand Canyon and the lava flow from SP Crater, one of several cinder cones in the area of the San Francisco Peaks volcano field, about 25 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. A cinder cone is a steep conical hill of volcanic fragments that accumulate around and downwind from a volcanic vent. The SP crater is said to have erupted 71,000 years ago. The lava field that flowed from the cone extends out more than four miles. The SP crater is approximately 800 feet tall and has a 400 foot deep crater. According to geologists, several of the cinder cones surrounding SP Crater are even older, indicated by the erosion they show.

© Copyright 2010 by Ted Grussing

In 1969, President Johnson made Marble Canyon a National Monument. The Grand Canyon was designated a Forest Reserve in 1893, and named a National Monument in1908, and in 1919 it became a National Park. Then in 1975 Marble Canyon became part of the Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon National Park covers 1,218,375 acres. The Canyon, deeply cut by the Colorado River, is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest. The South Rim is 7000 feet above sea level, which means snow in winter and cool nights even in summer. Summer temperatures along the Colorado River at the Canyon bottom can reach 120ยบ F., and the North Rim is 8000 feet above sea level and can receive snow a good part of the year.

Marble Canyon marks the western boundary of the Navajo Nation, and a few miles to the east is the Hopi Nation. Evidence of occupation of the Grand Canyon goes back more than 11,500 years, and archeologists and geologists have studied the area for decades. In 2008, archeologists excavated two sites along the Colorado River and one of the excavated sites has evidence of as many as six different human occupations over a time span of 3,500 years. The Park is also an ecological refuge, and home to numerous plant and animal species—1500 plant, 89 mammals, 47 reptile, 355 bird, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species.

This view of the river and Canyon that Ted captured from his vantage point with his camera, shows the geological wonder that it is, even more so than standing on the rim observing from that perspective.

Ted’s flight was obviously on a beautiful day, yesterday, to have captured such sights with his camera. This is what he wrote about his photographs:

“The flight north [from Sedona Airport] to the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River and the landscapes were beyond belief with the snow highlighting variations in the texture of the earth. The water was running a beautiful turquoise blue the last several miles of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado was running green as usual; except for a portion of the river upstream from the confluence in Marble Canyon and there due to lighting conditions it was a bluish color with reddish reflections from the canyon walls in it. The shot was taken from 10,800’ over the Confluence looking upriver. The confluence is where going upstream the canyon is denominated as Marble Canyon and downstream the Grand Canyon. There are no such boundaries visible from the air and the canyons are simply one canyon broken into two for whatever reason. That is one of the beauties of flight; you get to see the earth with no boundaries or property lines of any kind; it is simply the surface of planet earth.”

“The SP photo is the polite name for a crater that geologists gave another name to. The lava flow which appears to be several hundred feet high trails from the volcanic crater base down to the lower left of the photo. You can also see the fields of volcanic craters everywhere on the landscape ahead of us. The San Francisco peaks are upper left. The air was uncommonly stable.”

Visit Ted’s website to see more of his photography.