Thursday, January 22, 2009

Non-Fiction: COPS

(Mark Baker, 1986, Pocket Books)
In Cops, Baker once again pulls another Studs Terkel and interviews "over 100" cops across the USA, using excerpts from what they say to allow them to tell "the unforgettable true story of America's police." Well, dunno if it's unforgettable, but the book is definitely a lot more interesting than his other book, Women.
What Cops have to say he breaks down into various chapters headed, amongst others, Police Work, Blood Brothers and Curtains. And they have a lot to say, most of it interesting, telling everything from their fears to the perks, the freaky to the mundane, the good to the corrupt, the beginning to the end. The book does a good job of making a feared and mostly disliked (unless they are needed) group of people a lot less mysterious, a lot more tangible, if not even more human. They gotta deal with some pretty weird shit out there, to say the least. Naked ladies copulating with dogs on front lawns, knife fights involving huge Aunt Jemimas, lonely housewives who love men in uniforms, shootouts and murders—Barney Miller and Hill Street Blues it ain't.
Regrettably, the chapter about The Borderline, The Bad & The Ugly tends to destroy any sympathy for police that the other chapters might build, if only because it presents a picture of the police that is closer to the reality of what most people either see on television, have experienced themselves in the past or simply have developed as a picture due to their innate fear and distaste for authority figures with a gun. Actually, many scenes described in the book seem ripe for fictionalization and inclusion in either some cop show or a future Ed McBain novel. A real page-turner, Cops is hard to put down, and could easily be twice as long as its present 371 pages and still not bore. If you see it at Goodwill, buy it.

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