I first read this book back in the late seventies, when I was a rookie cop. Wambaugh’s books and movie were all the rage way back then. The New Centurions was his first book, which he wrote while he still worked as a Los Angeles Police Detective. Wambaugh pioneered the crime fiction genre, taking readers where they’d never been before, inside the police car, to learn about the men and women behind the badge.
We see how the job affects cops as opposed to how they affect their job. The New Centurions in this story are three new recruits. The story follows them from the police academy to the streets of L.A. in 1960, where they learn the hard realities about life on the street.
I found the prose a bit mundane about half way through the book, but that is how police work is most of the time…95% boring and the other 5% running around with your hair on fire. This story takes you to the dark side when one of the cops gets shot, and later, during the race riots.
If you want the real story on what lies behind the badge, this book is a must read. The forward was done my Michael Connelly.
On a personal note, Joseph Wambaugh was my inspiration, and has given me some personal advice for my own writing.