If by some miracle of fate you don't know him, he is the LAPD cop who burst onto the literary and pop culture scene in 1971 with The New Centurions. His gritty tales--both fiction and non-fiction--of police and their work have influenced and made possible shows like Hill Street Blues and The Shield.
At the Poisoned Pen on a cool December 2 evening, Wambaugh showed why he has been successful enough for a hundred lifetimes. He told charmingly shocking stories of actor James Woods who starred as an unknown in Wambaugh's self-produced The Onion Field. He did an imitation of Truman Capote and snuck us inside the In Cold Blood author's Palm Springs home on a day when it was 120 degrees. He brought us curbside to an almost-shakedown of out of work and forgotten Robert Blake in pre-Baretta days on an evening when a pre-famous Wambaugh was in a patrol car and how the term "Little Beaver" formed an instant connection between the two. And he raised us back up to the heights of glamour on set with Johnny Carson.
Watching Wambaugh work was like a master class in the art of being a raconteur. It was also a master class in being a very big person as he frequently and generously shared the spotlight with old friends, fellow cops and even little old moi.
He had the knack for zeroing in on the heart of the matter in seconds as he wrote the exact perfect thing in a book for Paul Patrick and one for Cliff Jewell (hey! they don't know it yet! it's a surprise--they wanted to go but couldn't make it--so a little Wambaugh is coming to them!).
If you ever have the chance to see this gentleman--and I mean that word in its highest literal sense--in person, do yourself a favor: go!
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**A Sudden Shot** as seen on TV!
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