Skip to comments.Freeper Reading Club Book Discussion: "The Choirboys"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
All the best
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