Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The New Centurions

The New CenturionsThe New Centurions by Joseph Wambaugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Serge Duran, Gus Plebesly, and Roy Fehler are classmates at the police academy and take to the streets after graduation. But will being police officers be as they thought?

The New Centurions follows the lives of three young men for five years, starting from their police academy days and into the Watts riots of 1965. I was expecting a simple cop story but got so much more.

Joseph Wambaugh was a cop before he was a writer and it shows. Both the cops and the people they encounter are three dimensional. Duran struggles with his Mexican heritage. Plebesly deals with being a coward. And Fehler's an asshole until something happens to change his point of view. All three men go through considerable changes after their academy days. People fall in love, have kids, get divorced, have drinking problems, it's all there.

The New Centurions deals a lot with how the police view the people they're protecting and vice versa. Rather than portray the police as heartless fascists or white knights, they all have their flaws.

I can't really get into specifics of the plot because there isn't one. The chapters alternate between the three leads in different stages of their careers, showing their triumphs and failures, leading up to the aftermath of the Watts riots. While I've got it shelved as a crime book, it's more like a character study. There's a fair amount of dark humor as well.

The New Centurions is highly recommended. Give it read if you want a story about cops being cops.

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