Joseph Wambaugh, author of The New Centurions and The Onion Field, returns to his LAPD roots in Hollywood Station.
It's been a decade since your last novel. Why so long?
I don't know why, other than I had this feeling that there was no more fiction in me. And then one day I thought, this is all wrong. I've got a novel in me. I like Hollywood Station a lot, and the characters still enter my head every night when I'm in bed. I'm profoundly a character-driven writer, so when this happens, I just let the characters do what they want.
What inspired you to return to the LAPD after all these years?
James Ellroy urged me to go back. He said somebody had to write a story about what the LAPD is enduring today regarding the civil rights federal consent decree and micro management by the government and everybody else. James said that nobody but me could do it and get it right. Don't know if he's right, but it got me started.
The book shows how political correctness has strangled law enforcement. Do you see this getting even worse in the future?
To paraphrase detective Andi McCrea in the novel, the days of LAPD rock 'n' rule are over. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but I suspect that when the gangsters and other crooks no longer fear or even respect the cops, street crime will rise and keep rising.
Many of today's best crime novelists cite you as an influence. Do you find inspiration in today's crime fiction?
Yes, I enjoy the work of Michael Connelly, James Ellroy, Robert Crais and others who have called me the inventor of the modern police novel. As for inspiration, for me it comes from the cops themselves. I cannot write a novel, a script, or anything else without interviewing dozens of cops. I can tell you this: women cops are cheaper dates. Male cops require on average three and a half shots of booze to get them talking, women cops just smell the cork and I can't write fast enough to get it all down on paper.
You've written successfully in both fiction and nonfiction. Which do you prefer?
Nonfiction books are my stepchildren. I love them, but they don't carry my DNA. They belong to the living people I wrote about. The fiction books are my blood children. My DNA is all over them even though the characters in them are nothing like me.