The Choirboys are no angels

The Choirboys in blue carry billy clubs like this one.

Author Joseph Wambaugh knows cops. He worked 14 years for the Los Angeles Police Department until, with two novels and a nonfiction book to his credit, he quit to write full time.

The Choirboys is a about five sets of partners working the LAPD night shift. They are an oddly-assorted bunch, including military veterans, college graduates, do-gooders and do-others-first types.

They have nothing in common except the shared misery of doing a thankless job directed by incompetent supervisors for a public that hates their guts — and choir practice.

Choir practice is what the boys in blue call their weekly booze and broads bacchanals in MacArthur Park.

Officially, choir practice doesn’t happen because nothing LAPD officials refuse to admit happens, happens.

The guys in the patrol cars are on their own with disastrous results.

Less a novel than a collection of episodes, without Wambaugh’s frequent references to the shooting that would happen later The Choirboys would hardly pass for a novel: 10 main characters are about eight too many.

Wambaugh gets the details right, though. The topics of conversation and the language remind me of working the police beat as a newspaper reporter—and of why I hated working the police beat.

Cops are not choir boys.

The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh
Delacorte Press ©1975 346 p.
1975 bestseller #1. My grade: B

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Jubilee Trail Celebrates Women’s Strength

Garnet Cameron, newly graduated from a select New York finishing school in 1844, promptly falls head over heals for a Harvard drop-out turned prairie trader. Oliver Hale appeals to a sense of adventure Garnet never knew she had.

They marry and set off  for California, planning to return to New York the following year.

In New Orleans, Garnet engineers the escape of  a dance hall singer accused of murder who  turns up again on the wagon train west over the Jubilee Trail. Garnet and Florinda become best friends.

Once in California, Garnet has to deal with Oliver’s controlling elder brother who had planned a  politically expedient marriage for Oliver. Garnet’s hero-husband turns wimp in his brother’s shadow.

When Oliver is killed, Garnet moves in with Florinda, both working as barmaids in Los Angeles. They live through earthquakes, the US annexation of California,  Charles Hale’s attempt to abduct his late brother’s infant son, and the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill.

Garnet looks for abiding love that Florinda denies exists, yet they remain fiercely loyal to each other. Both  face whatever life dishes out, tidy up, and get ready for the next challenge. Through this unlikely pair, novelist Gwen Bristow makes Jubilee Trail a  celebration of women.

The Jubilee Trail
Gwen Bristow
Thomas T. Crowell, 1950
564 pages
1950 bestseller # 8
My grade B-
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni