Mysterious Book Report Harbor NocturneHarbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh

Mysterious Press, $27.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2610-8

A few weeks ago, I made some lists, based on preliminary reviews from publishers and booksellers for summer reading fun.  One of the books on the list was Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh.  He’s a retired LAPD detective with twenty-some-odd books to his credit, all revolving around the Los Angeles Police Department.  I consider them to be among the best of a sub-genre in crime fiction known as police procedurals.  The term means exactly what it says; they’re written about cops and detail their procedures.  Wambaugh’s are cream of the crop because they’re exact, based on his personal experience; he’s a master of the language; his cops and his criminals dialogue is spot-on; and last he’s got a funny side . . . excelling in the type of gallows humor that cops are famous for.

Wambaugh reprises two of his most loved and funny characters in this one: a pair of surfer-dude cops nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam.  Jetsam, who has a prosthetic foot due to an on duty shoot-out, is tasked with an undercover job because of his amputation.  At the same time, back in San Pedro, the southernmost district of Los Angeles, a romance is developing between an unlikely pair of lovers: Dinko Babich, a young longshoreman and Lita Medina, a not-so-innocent teenage Mexican stripper and topless dancer.  When the two lovers are caught in the middle between a criminal sex-trade-human-smuggling ring and the cops who are chasing them, lives hang in the balance as the star-crossed lovers try to hide from the warring fractions . . . all set against a background of the Los Angeles San Pedro District Harbor.

This one is pure escapist fun.  Your summer afternoon spent reading it will fly by faster than the Saturday matinee at the movies when you were a kid.  Another great one from a master of the genre.


John Dwaine McKenna