There may just be no writer alive who more accurately writes L.A. in all its ravaged beauty than Joseph Wambaugh. He vividly conveys the grit with biting observations of the denizens who populate Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and often with an extravagance that any Angelino could tell you isn’t extravagance at all. Los Angeles may just be the one place on earth where truth IS stranger that fiction. If his bad guys seem over the top to the reader, then the reader has never spent any significant time in L.A.--because in L.A. over the top is a way of life.
Same with Wambaugh's portrayal of cops. And he should know, he spent 14 years as one of those cops. This extravagance, often displayed in what might seem parody, with liberal doses of satire, dark humor, and grit is especially apparent in his Hollywood Station series which began in 2006 and introduces the multi-ethnic mix of police characters in the Wilcox Avenue station as well as the roiling melting pot of the general population. He followed up Hollywood Station with 2008s Hollywood Crows: A Novel, amazingly his first sequel. Harbor Nocturne continues the tale of those cynical, often humorous blue collar working stiffs whose job it is to police the wackiest city on earth. Where else would a street cop be required to referee a fight between Spiderman and Ironman after Captain America calls 911? Where else would a street cop hold an impromptu version of Jeopardy, complete with answers required in the form of questions, with a bunch of drunks as the contestants and the outcome determining who went to jail for the night.
But, and don’t miss this point, all of these characters are actually supporting characters, even Dinko Babich, the son of a Croat immigrant, a second generation longshoreman and a dope smoking slacker, and his star crossed lover Lita Medina, an illegal Mexican exotic dancer who can’t dance, can’t speak English, but is oh so beautiful and probably needs saving. No, the real star of the book; the real hero--and villain--of the piece is Los Angles itself, and its stepchild of a suburb, San Pedro (pronounced by the cognizanti “San Pee-dro,” not “Pey-dro” ) which is only nominally connected to L.A. proper by that umbilicus of a freeway, The Harbor freeway.