NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A fascinating account of a double tragedy: one physical, the other psychological.”—Truman Capote
This is the frighteningly true story of two young cops and two young robbers whose separate destinies fatally cross one March night in a bizarre execution in a deserted Los Angeles field.
“A complex story of tragic proportions . . . more ambitious than In Cold Blood and equally compelling!”—The New York Times
“Once the action begins it is difficult to put the book down. . . . Wambaugh’s compelling account of this true story is destined for the bestseller lists.”—Library Journal
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||4 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The night in the onion field was a Saturday night. Saturday meant impossible traffic in Hollywood so felony car officers did a good deal of their best work on side streets off Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. On those side streets, revelers’ cars were clouted or stolen. F-cars also cruised the more remote commercial areas, away from intersections where traffic snarled, and the streets undulated with out-of-towners, roaming groups of juveniles, fruit hustlers, desperate homosexuals, con men, sailors, marines.
Nothing the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce said could camouflage the very obvious dangers to tourists on those teeming streets. Most of the famous clubs had closed, the others were closing, and Hollywood was being left to the street people. The “swells” of the forties and early fifties had all but abandoned downtown Hollywood and were gradually surrendering the entire Sunset Strip, at least at night.
In spite of it all, Hollywood Division was a good place for police work. It was busy and exciting in the way that is unique to police experience–the unpredictable lurked. Ian Campbell believed that what most policemen shared was an abhorrence of the predictable, a distaste for the foreseeable experiences of working life. It wasn’t what the misinformed often wrote, that they were danger lovers. Race drivers were danger lovers. That’s why, after Ian and his old friend Wayne Ferber had crashed a sports car several years before, he had given up racing, though he would never give up police work.
He felt that the job was not particularly hazardous physically but was incredibly hazardous emotionally and too often led to divorce, alcoholism, and suicide. No, policemen were not danger lovers, they were seekers of the awesome, the incredible, even the unspeakable in human experience. Never mind whether they could interpret, never mind if it was potentially hazardous to the soul. To be there was the thing.
Karl Hettinger was newly assigned to felony cars and Ian was breaking him in. The partnership had jelled almost at once.
“You were in the marine corps too?” Ian asked, during the monotonous first night of plainclothes felony car patrol.
“Communications.” Karl nodded.
“Really? So was I,” Ian said, flickering his headlights at a truck coming onto Santa Monica from the freeway.
“The voice with a smile,” Karl said, and they both grinned and made the first step toward a compatible partnership.
Each man learned after two nights together that the other was unobtrusive and quiet, Ian the more quiet, Karl the more unobtrusive, but a dry wit. It would take two men like these longer to learn the habits and tastes of the other, but once learned, the partnership could result in satisfying working rapport. There is nothing more important to a patrol officer than the partner with whom he will share more waking hours than with a wife, upon whom he is to depend more than a man should, with whom he will share the ugliness and tedium, the humor and the wonder.
“You dropped out of college in your final semester?” asked Ian during their third night. “So did I. What were you majoring in?”
“Agriculture, beer, and poker, not in that order,” said Karl, who was driving tonight, a slow and cautious driver who now wore glasses at night, finding he had some trouble reading license plates.
“I was in zoology and pre-med. Looks like we’re both out of our elements.”
“I’m taking police science courses now,” said Karl.
“So am I,” said Ian.