Monday, June 23, 2008


"The difference between a cop and writers is on the table before us," Joe Wambaugh says with a salute to the drink before him. "I'm eighty proof and the rest of you are beer and aperitifs."

Another thing on the table before us is the fact that Wambaugh still empathizes with and considers himself one of them; he likes us well enough to consider himself one of us as well, but in his heart he is a cop. He nods at me. "I am an English major, and at those reunions--" he says, emphasizing the those by which we are given to understand university reunions instead of cop reunions, "--at those reunions, I sit with the lit majors. But I was a cop before I was an M.A. in English."

He was also a cop before he was a writer although the more you listen to him, you see his tropes and recollections coming forth in story format--spirited, warm-hearted reflections about people, even people he was responsible for, as he put it, arranging scholarships to institutions where cutting class was not an option any more than line-up and lock-down were options.

It is easy to find common ground with him, subjects that interest him, things he has read, things he wants to read, things he has written or wants to write. When we talk about his work, he tries out of modesty to shift the subject along to something else, where we could talk or agree or disagree, but there is a reporter from NPR along, working on a Wambaugh feature and she encourages the drift back to his work. All right, he seems to sigh with resignation, my work then. "I seem to recall," he tells me, "you favoring The Mysteries of Harry Bright." I nod immediate affirmative. "Mine, too," he confesses.

Jerry Roberts, another excellent reporter, chimes in. "Mine, too. Almost mystic in its implications."

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