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Freeper Reading Club Book Discussion: "The Choirboys"
Self | October 14, 2003 | PJ-Comix

Posted on 10/14/2003 1:12:17 PM PDT by PJ-Comix

The Freeper Reading Club Book discussion this time around is about Joseph Wambaugh's HILARIOUS book, The Choirboys. One of the best compliments paid to this book was by a Missouri Police officer, Robert Thompson, from St. Louis Missouri who had this to say in his Amazon review of The Choirboys:

As a police officer in the Midwest, I was shocked...that a story written over 20 years ago about policemen half a continent away would sound like it was written about us yesterday. The colorful characters seem ripped right out of my squadroom, and incompetent supervisors taken right from our rolls and the calls from the public right off my log sheet!! I shook my head as I sympathized with the characters, their inner demons and outer perils. This book is a MUST read for any police officer in the nation, or anyone who wants a safe look at a policeman's world with the ever present danger they face.


TOPICS: Announcements; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: bookreview; choirboys; josephwambaugh
The next Freeper Reading Club assignment is Some Came Running (unabridged) by James Jones. It will be due January 12 so you have plenty of time to finish it. Yet ANOTHER masterpiece by America's GREATEST author.
1 posted on 10/14/2003 1:12:18 PM PDT by PJ-Comix
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2 posted on 10/14/2003 1:12:51 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: PJ-Comix
Just a bit of trivia. My screen name comes from a character in this book (by way of a cat).
3 posted on 10/14/2003 1:15:35 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: Bahbah; contessa machiaveli; BADJOE; Mr.Clark; Betty Jane; Orblivion; Non-Sequitur; dixie sass; ...
FYI. I think I will post a few more reviews of The Choirboys from the Amazon reader reviews. But go ahead and post your own impressions. Wambaugh is the absolute BEST when it comes to writing about police in particular and law enforcement in general. Remember, Wambaugh himself was an L.A. cop and I believe he also worked the Wilshire division.
4 posted on 10/14/2003 1:16:04 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix
Hey, I read this one! It's right up there with The New Centurions.
5 posted on 10/14/2003 1:18:25 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: Skooz
Just a bit of trivia. My screen name comes from a character in this book (by way of a cat).

Do you also smoke a stinky cigar and have a six O'Clock shadow while peeping into public latrines? BTW, I loved Scuze's explanation of how vice works. Totally unglamorous and totally unlike Miami Vice. Come to think of it, wasn't Miami Vice misnamed? I never saw Crockett and Tubbs staring through a peephole into a toilet stall.

6 posted on 10/14/2003 1:19:35 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix
Wait a minute........did I spell it wrong?
7 posted on 10/14/2003 1:20:28 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: PJ-Comix
Main thing I remember about the CHOIR BOYS was all the damn boozing

Seems ironic chase druggies and save the public from drugs etc etc and then get completely sloshed after work

Same is true for the cop shows on TV

Something doesn't compute

8 posted on 10/14/2003 1:30:18 PM PDT by uncbob ( building tomorrow)
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To: PJ-Comix
I worked with Joe when he was in the headquarters building in the Office of Planning and Control back in 1969. A really great guy and a terrific sense of humor, but serious about his job. He had just finished the Blue Knights and the brass did not know quite what to do about the situation.
9 posted on 10/14/2003 1:31:32 PM PDT by erswts
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To: Travis McGee
Here is another Amazon review of The Choirboys, also written by a cop:

When The Choirboys was published almost thirty years ago, I was a young Marine thinking of becoming a police officer. I read Wambaugh's fiction back then because it provided a unique combination of humor and truth about police work. Or at least it seemed as if it might be the truth - Wambaugh had been a cop and I hadn't. And of all his fiction, Choirboys was by far the funniest... and at the same time, its story the most tragic and bittersweet.

Now I'm an old cop in a big metro area, looking towards retirement. Every couple years, I read Choirboys again. It amazes me and overwhelms me to find that it rings more true with every reading. The more I see of police work and of life, the more I realize how much humor and truth Wambaugh really was able to put into this book. It's all there: the amazing things that happen in life, some horrible, some hilarious. The camraderie, kidding, and practical jokes that cops constantly use to keep their perspective. The way Wambaugh's cops don't always like each other, but they always look out for each other. The supervisors and administrators - some good, far too many bad. It's the truest book I've ever read and gets better every time I read it. I've given away a lot of copies of this one.

I'm not sure, but I believe Choirboys was written at about the time that Wambaugh was leaving police work to devote all his time to writing. The book is definitely written from the perspective of someone who is willing to burn some bridges. It is unflinchingly realistic regarding the careerism and hypocrisy that Wambaugh saw in many police supervisors and administrators, and in the politics of the department itself. But Wambaugh never preaches, he satirizes, and he makes his reader laugh out loud again and again.

The bottom line is - this is the best cop book I know of. I hope you'll think so too, and I'm willing to bet that you do.

10 posted on 10/14/2003 1:40:06 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: erswts
I worked with Joe when he was in the headquarters building in the Office of Planning and Control back in 1969. A really great guy and a terrific sense of humor, but serious about his job. He had just finished the Blue Knights and the brass did not know quite what to do about the situation.

VERY INTERESTING! Yeah, I can see how the top brass wouldn't know what to make of The Blue Knight. I assume Wambaugh had also worked the Wilshire Division. BTW, if you worked in downtown L.A. then you MUST have eaten at The Pantry Cafe.

11 posted on 10/14/2003 1:42:59 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix
"Wambaugh is the absolute BEST when it comes to writing about police in particular and law enforcement in general. "

Except for "Lines and Shadows" which to me was very boring
12 posted on 10/14/2003 1:44:53 PM PDT by sticker
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To: uncbob
I think The Choirboys is probably a more accurate description of how cops work and live than the TV show, COPS. Why? Because when the cops know the TV camera is on them, they are going to be on their BEST behavior.
13 posted on 10/14/2003 1:44:59 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix
I was attached to Armed Forces Police in NYC back in the '60's, the idea of me a cop even for a short period is amazing. Change the accents, the climate, and the city and I can match a NYC LEO, to those in Wambaughs Books. A great cycnical bunch of people to be around, I still laugh at the stories I was told.
14 posted on 10/14/2003 1:54:17 PM PDT by Little Bill (No Rats, A.N.S.W.E.R (WWP) is a commie front!!!!,)
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To: Little Bill
There are MANY favorable reviews by cops or ex-cops on this book on Amazon. Here is another one:

From Roscoe Rules making everyone "do the chicken" to Francis Tanaguchi's vampire teeth to Spermwhale Whalen's "blue veiner" and/or "diamond cutter", I believe this is the best and most realistic book about police work I've ever read. I read it when I was a police officer in Southern Calif. in the 1970's, and am now reading it for the second time, about 25 years later. I'm considering using it as a text for a "Human Relations and Social Conflict" class I'm teaching at a Colorado Community College (Criminal Justice Program). I can't imagine a book that better depicts the reality of being a police officer, the crazy and depressing situations that continually arise, and the officer's means of dealing with the problems they encounter daily. Joseph Wambaugh became an icon with this book in my opinion, at least with the police culture in America. My only criticism of the book is that the style is a little narrative at times, but the points are made exceedingly well none-the-less. Every time Roscoe talks about making someone do the chicken, I can't help but laugh, since I used this phrase many times over the years, and only made one person "do the chicken" in 30 years in law enforcement. Great book and well worth reading.

15 posted on 10/14/2003 2:01:21 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix
Our office was on the top floor of Parker Center and the cafeteria was just down the hall. We usually ate there or went for mexican food out in the Hollenbeck division area. Worked at Parker Center when RFK was shot. The investigative task force was also down the hall from us. It was a really fascinating job. The PD recruited me out of college. I was a civilian management type. Not a sworn officer.
16 posted on 10/14/2003 2:06:14 PM PDT by erswts
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To: PJ-Comix
PJ, I was an accedental cop, the Army has so many people coming back from VN that they didn't where to put them. I chased AWOL's all over NYC, saw a side of the place that few people will ever see, worked with Police Officers in all of the boroughs, it was an instructive phase of my life.

I volunteered to go back to VN, I was a grunt, it was safer, this was the time when those two young Marines, NYC LEOs were murdered.

17 posted on 10/14/2003 2:17:53 PM PDT by Little Bill (No Rats, A.N.S.W.E.R (WWP) is a commie front!!!!,)
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To: PJ-Comix
This book was written in a very interesting way. First, Wambaugh set up the mystery of the "dead body" at the choir practice. He then describes all of the players in detail during the book while you, the reader, get to guess who ends up being that "dead body." The answer, revealed at the end, is a surprise.

At first, I thought that the "choir practices" as described by Wambaugh were over the top. But then I recall my Marine Corps days and remember some rather wild times myself. There used to be a bar in El Centro (CA) that I used to go to at night and it had a backyard to it with old dilapitated lawn chairs and we'd take our drinks out there and lie around under the stars, getting, well, pretty much getting "swacked" as Wambaugh would put it. There were even a couple of local women who hung around the place who could well have been persuaded to "pull the train" on us.

There are many similarities between military life and law enforcement. You got your phoney-baloney inspections that basically exist for the brass to feel important and superior as they stroll through the ranks, nitpicking here and there. Many of the younger officers are incompetent and just horrible dealing with the rank and file, similar to how Lieutenant Finque is portrayed. Of course, there are plenty of seasoned vets like Sergeant Yanov that help them save face by acting as middleman. In the military as in the LA police department, it's the line sergeants that actually get things done (while the brass take all the credit).

The character of Dean Pratt ("Whaddaya Mean Dean") was hilarious. I actually knew some Marines who were very much like that character. I knew some Roscoe Rules types too. In fact, all the characters in this book reminded me of somebody I knew in the Marines. In particular, I remember a Marine (Gunnery Sergeant) who lived in the enlisted barracks because he didn't have a nickel to his name. He was paying off 2-ex wifes and supporting five children between them - very much like Spermwhale Whalen (great name, by the way). I always wondered how it was possible for the man, who was maybe making $1200 a month (and this was in the early 1980s), to support two families. In fact, this Gunnery Sergeant was reduced in rank just before I got discharged for "conduct unbecoming." Seems the officer of the day found him passed out drunk on the barracks pool table at 4AM.

The Los Angeles Police Department as portrayed by Joseph Wambaugh is a far cry from how it was portrayed on that 1960s show "Adam-12"!

I liked the part near the end where the D

18 posted on 10/14/2003 3:01:57 PM PDT by SamAdams76 (208.0 (-92.0) Homestretch to 200)
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To: SamAdams76
If you liked "The Choirboys" you'd really like "The Delta Star" Same author about a decade later.

All the best

Qatar-6

19 posted on 10/14/2003 6:56:09 PM PDT by Qatar-6
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To: PJ-Comix
As with all Wambaugh books, he keeps you involved! Having been around law enforcement most of my life - he hits it dead on.

I guess thats because he was a law enforcement officer. The first book I read of his was Onion Fields based on an actual case. I have been a fan of his ever since.
20 posted on 10/14/2003 10:51:36 PM PDT by dixie sass (GOD bless America)
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To: uncbob
If you look at the stats, you will find that the highest acoholism and divorce rates are among persons who work in law enforcement and medicine (particularly emergency work). Seeing what the see on a daily basis 8 to 12 hours a day "ain't purty".
21 posted on 10/14/2003 11:01:19 PM PDT by dixie sass (GOD bless America)
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To: SamAdams76
The Los Angeles Police Department as portrayed by Joseph Wambaugh is a far cry from how it was portrayed on that 1960s show "Adam-12"!

I wonder if Wambaugh wrote his book partly in reaction to the "Adam-12" show.

22 posted on 10/15/2003 4:04:03 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: dixie sass
The first book I read of his was Onion Fields based on an actual case. I have been a fan of his ever since.

I read almost all of Wambaugh's books. One exception was The Blooding which is just a couple of feet from me right now and which I will commence reading soon. BTW, what was Wambaugh's most recent book?

23 posted on 10/15/2003 4:08:01 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: SamAdams76
I liked the part near the end where the D

Huh? I think your sentence got cut off. It reminds me of when I do an impression of singing the theme tune of Sound Of Music: "THE HILLS ARE A..."

24 posted on 10/15/2003 4:10:27 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: SamAdams76
I liked the part near the end where the D

Huh? I think your sentence got cut off. It reminds me of when I do an impression of singing the theme tune of Sound Of Music: "THE HILLS ARE A..."

25 posted on 10/15/2003 4:11:01 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: SamAdams76
I'm wondering if stuff like this can happen only on an American police force because of our national eccentricities. Somehow I can't imagine something like this on a Swiss police force.
26 posted on 10/15/2003 4:13:11 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: sticker
Wow. Lines and Shadows was my fave by Joe...JFK
27 posted on 10/15/2003 4:29:24 AM PDT by BADROTOFINGER (Life sucks. Get a helmet.)
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To: BADROTOFINGER
We will have to agree to disagree on that one. I was trying to remember, did he write a book on a strange murder case in PA or was that someone else?
28 posted on 10/15/2003 5:48:56 AM PDT by sticker
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To: sticker
Jeez, I dont remember, I picked up a Joe Wambaugh book my mom had lying around, and then went on to just devour every book of his I could find. I read the Choirboys but dont really remember enough about it to comment on this thread. I did name a cat of mine after one of the characters in The Choirboys (I think), Buckmore Phipps. I liked Lines and Shadows because it really highlighted the Law of Unintended Consequences and painted a succinct picture of human desperation (sp?) and human frailties...JFK
29 posted on 10/15/2003 6:12:57 AM PDT by BADROTOFINGER (Life sucks. Get a helmet.)
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To: BADROTOFINGER
Wow. Lines and Shadows was my fave by Joe...

I know I read it but refresh my memory as to what it is about. Was this the one about a murder at some private school in Pennsylvania?

30 posted on 10/15/2003 7:32:58 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix; WhyisaTexasgirlinPA
I loved this and all of Wambaugh's books, before, during and after my short (3 year) career as a cop.
31 posted on 10/15/2003 7:42:38 AM PDT by SeeRushToldU_So (Whacha think?)
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To: SeeRushToldU_So
Georgia, you can read? (sorry, just kidding........ )
32 posted on 10/15/2003 7:48:37 AM PDT by WhyisaTexasgirlinPA
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To: PJ-Comix
I don't know PJ, I just pick up any book that has his name and start reading. It's not "FLOATER" is it?
33 posted on 10/15/2003 11:10:47 AM PDT by dixie sass (GOD bless America)
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To: PJ-Comix
When I was a kid, I used to watch shows like Adam-12 and Emergency (remember that show about LA paramedics?). I can still remember the calls of "Rampart, Rampart" or "One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, Forty Maple Lane, please see the man with the cat up in the tree."

As a kid watching those shows, it was easy to think that those clean-cut characters reflected how every cop was and that being a cop was one of the best jobs in the world to have. So what a shock it was to me, as a 13-year-old kid bicycling through a road work sign to have a big-bellied cop working the detail step in front of me with an ugly expression and bellow "move the hell outta my construction area ya punk or I'll take that bike and shove it up your ass!" while the road crew leaned on their shovels and laughed at my shocked "deer-in-the-headlights" expression. I hightailed it out of there and never looked back.

Of course, not all cops are that way. But that incident was the beginning of my realization that the real world did not resemble in the slightest those antiseptic TV dramas and sitcoms. Speaking of my childhood naivety, as a 10-year-old, I actually wrote a letter to the Partridge Family asking them if they needed somebody to help out with the band - even properly addressed it to "Reuben Kincaid, manager". Yes, one of my childhood fantasies was apparently to be some sort of "roadie" for the Partridge Family! But I digress.

I happen to know a police officer pretty well, he's married to my cousin. I'll have to bring this book up next time I see to him. He's probably familiar with it. He talks to me about police work sometimes and a lot of what he told me about it comes out in the book, such as the impression many officers have that they are sometimes "shoveling crap against the wind." That is to say, dealing with the same drunks and bums night after night, only to see them right back on the streets hours later.

34 posted on 10/15/2003 11:11:40 AM PDT by SamAdams76 (208.0 (-92.0) Homestretch to 200)
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To: PJ-Comix
the rampart division is more noirish(that seems to be james ellroy territory). wambaugh is gritty is a different way...there's something about LA cop novels, it's a setting like no other (i guess i've seen too many films).
for instance: heat, LA confidential, the limey, and chinatown.

what is it about LA?
35 posted on 10/15/2003 12:29:06 PM PDT by contessa machiaveli
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To: SamAdams76
My first experience with a cop that I can remember was when I was in Kindergarten in Cleveland. I missed my school bus ride home so I showed my dogtag ID that the school gave us to a cop as I was instructed to do when lost. The school folks told us the cops would then be happy to take us home but this cop was a cantankerous old guy who was bitching on the whole ride about how I was ruining his lunch hour.

Anyway, since I lived in L.A. for awhile I was very familiar with the locales mentioned in The Choirboys which made the book even more interesting. The best fiction is based strongly on fact. BTW, the next book due, Some Came Running is based on James Jones' hometown and the people in it.

36 posted on 10/15/2003 12:33:17 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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To: PJ-Comix
Huh? I think your sentence got cut off. It reminds me of when I do an impression of singing the theme tune of Sound Of Music: "THE HILLS ARE A..."

Huh? Huh? Whaddaya tryin' to say? Whaddaya tryin' to say?

I don't know why that last paragraph cut off. I think I was distracted by the baseball game I was watching at the time I posted it.

I was referring to the part where the Police Doctor, the one who spends most of his time writing puff pieces for the police newsletter, did psychological profiles on the "choir practice" members after the accidental killing of the "park fairy." After much effort to research their backgrounds and to try to come up with an answer why they were the way they were, he chucked the entire report in the trash, knowing that the last thing the brass wanted from him was a report that would do anything to "rock the boat."

I also got a kick out of that idea one of the brass had to have the patrolmen sell whistles on the street for $1 for little old ladies to blow should they ever get assaulted by a street thug. As if police officers patrolling around in their cruisers are ever going to hear, much less respond to, a whistle blowing. Of course, this captain got a nice feather in his cap for this idea - which naturally had zero effect on crime fighting.

37 posted on 10/15/2003 12:53:04 PM PDT by SamAdams76 (208.0 (-92.0) Homestretch to 200)
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To: Qatar-6
If you liked "The Choirboys" you'd really like "The Delta Star" Same author about a decade later.

Or Finnegan's Week!

I was dispatching at a medium-sized city PD when The New Centurions came out. In fact, I was working third shift -- and reading that book at work. When I got to the scene about an officer's gunshot wound, I had to set the book aside. Took me awhile before I was able to finish reading the book.
38 posted on 10/16/2003 1:21:04 AM PDT by Fawnn (Official Canteen wOOhOO Consultant ... and www.CookingWithPam.com person)
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To: PJ-Comix
Well, here I go again. This book really depressed me. I'd just as soon not know what police think about women, sex, drugs, etc. It is definitely a man's world.

Fortunately, this is not a side of life I have any experience in (as many of you have) and one I wouldn't care to see.
39 posted on 10/19/2003 4:31:55 PM PDT by WHATNEXT?
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To: WHATNEXT?
Well, here I go again. This book really depressed me. I'd just as soon not know what police think about women, sex, drugs, etc. It is definitely a man's world.

It's about cops, NOT Eagle Scouts. Anyway, such a book humanizes the police.

40 posted on 10/19/2003 6:08:42 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Ahnold Groped Eva Braun While Popping 100 Painkillers Per Day!!!)
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