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.