The Choirboys

The Choirboys

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Overview

The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh

“Each wears his cynicism like a bulletproof jockstrap—each has his horror story, his bad dream, his nightshriek. He is afraid of his friends—he is afraid of himself.”—New York Times

Partners in the Los Angeles Police Department, they’re haunted by terrifying dark secrets of the nightwatch–shared predawn drink and sex sessions they call choir practice. 

“A master storyteller . . . authenticity oozes from this book . . . freewheeling and chilling and certainly Wambaugh's best.”—Houston Chronicle

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385341608
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 346,611
Product dimensions: 5.08(w) x 8.14(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Joseph Wambaugh is the hard-hitting bestselling writer who conveys the passionate immediacy of a special world. He was a police officer with the LAPD for 14 years before retiring in 1974, during which time he published three bestselling novels. Over the course of his career, Wambaugh has been the author of more than 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, all written in his gritty, distinctive noir-ish style. He's won multiple Edgar Awards, and several of his books have been made into feature films and TV movies. He lives in California with his wife.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Territorial Imperative



The man most deserving of credit for keeping the MacArthur Park killing out of the newspapers before it brought discredit to the Los Angeles Police Department was Commander Hector Moss. It was perhaps Commander Moss' finest hour.

The blond commander was so exultant this afternoon he didn't mind that Deputy Chief Adrian Lynch was keeping him waiting the allotted time. Chief Lynch kept all callers waiting precisely three minutes before coming to the phone, unless his secretary told him it was an assistant chief or the chief of police himself or one of the commissioners or a city councilman or anyone at City Hall who reported directly to the mayor.

Moss despised Lynch for having a do-nothing job and a specially ordered oversized desk. Moss knew for a fact that Deputy Chief Lynch had secret plans to increase his personal staff by two: one policewoman and one civilian, both of whom were busty young women. Commander Moss knew this because his adjutant, Lieutenant Dewey Treadwell, had sneaked into Lynch's office and searched his file basket when a janitor left the door open. Of course Lieutenant Treadwell could not receive a specifically worded commendation for his assignment but he did receive an ambiguously worded "attaboy" from Moss.

But there was another assignment which Treadwell had failed to carry out, and Commander Moss' stomach soured as he remembered it. It had to do with Moss' IQ score of 107. Throughout his twenty-one year career his IQ had meant nothing to his rise to the rank of commander. Indeed, he had not even known what his score was. He had been a state college honors student in police science and reasoned that no one with an ordinary IQ could manage this. But with the retirement of a senior deputy chief it had been called to Moss' attention by none other than Deputy Chief Lynch who didn't think the promotion board would consider a man for such a high police post who possessed an IQ of only 107. Lynch's own IQ was 140.

Commander Moss was livid. He took Lieutenant Treadwell to a Chinatown bar one Friday after work and forced the teetotaler to down five cocktails, promising his personal patronage for the rest of Treadwell's career if he could carry off a most delicate assignment. The ever ambitious, thirty year old lieutenant agreed to slip into Personnel Division that night and change Commander Moss' IQ score from 107 to 141.

Commander Moss downed his fourth Singapore sling and said, "Treadwell, I know I can depend on you."

But instantly the lieutenant's ambition gave way to fear. He stammered, "If anything ever . . . well, look, sir, the watch commander of Personnel is a former detective. He might start sniffing around. They have ways in the crime lab to tell if documents have been tampered with!"

"Don't talk crime lab to me, Treadwell," Moss replied. "Have you ever worked the Detective Bureau?"

"No, sir."

"You listen to me, Treadwell. You're an office pogue. You never been anything but an office pogue. You don't have the slightest idea what goes on in a working police division. But you keep your mouth shut and do what you're told and I'll see to it that you're a captain someday and you can have your own station to play with. You don't and I'll have you in uniform on the nightwatch in Watts. Understand me, Treadwell?"

"Oh, yes, sir!"

"Now drink your Pink Lady," Commander Moss commanded. (It was Hector Moss who had persuaded the chief of police that the traditional police rank of "inspector" was no longer viable in an era of violence when policemen are called upon to employ counterinsurgency tactics. Thanks to Moss all officers formerly of the inspector rank could now call themselves "commander." Moss had "Commander and Mrs. Hector Moss" painted on his home mailbox. Commander Moss had been a PFC in the army.)

Lieutenant Treadwell tried desperately every night for three weeks to sneak into Personnel Division. Each morning he reported a "Sorry, sir, negative" to Commander Moss. Lieutenant Dewey Treadwell lost ten pounds in those three weeks. He slept no more than four hours a night and then only fitfully. He was impotent. On the twenty-first night of his mission he was almost caught by a janitor. Lieutenant Treadwell was defeated and admitted it to Commander Moss on a black Wednesday morning.

The commander listened to his adjutant's excuses for a moment and said, "Did you get a good look at the janitor's face, Lieutenant?"

"Yes, sir. No . . . I don't know, sir. Why?"

"Because that boogie might live in Watts. And you'll need some friends there. because that's where i'm sending you on the next transfer, you incompetent fucking pansy!"

Commander Moss did not send Lieutenant Treadwell to Watts. He decided a spineless jellyfish was preferable to a smart aleck like Lieutenant Wirtz who worked for Deputy Chief Lynch. What he did was to go into Personnel Division in broad daylight, rip the commendation he wrote for Treadwell out of the file, draw a black X through it with a felt tipped pen, seal it in an envelope and leave it in Lieutenant Treadwell's incoming basket without comment.

Lieutenant Treadwell, after his hair started falling out in tufts, earned his way back into Commander Moss' good graces by authoring that portion of the Los Angeles Police Department manual which reads:

sideburns: Sideburns shall not extend below the bottom of the outer ear opening (the top of the earlobe) and shall end in a clean-shaven horizontal line. The flare (terminal portion of the sideburn) shall not exceed the width of the main portion of the sideburn by more than one-fourth of the unflared width.

moustaches: A short and neatly trimmed moustache of natural color may be worn. Moustaches shall not extend below the vermilion border of the upper lip or the corners of the mouth and may not extend to the side more than one-quarter inch beyond the corners of the mouth.

It took Lieutenant Treadwell thirteen weeks to compose the regulations. He was toasted and congratulated at a staff meeting. He beamed proudly. The regulations were perfect. No one could understand them.

As Commander Moss cooled his heels on the telephone waiting for Deputy Chief Adrian Lynch, the deputy chief was watching the second hand on his watch sweep past the normal three minute interval he reserved for most callers. Chief Lynch couldn't decide whether to give Moss a four minute wait or have his secretary say he would call back. Of course he couldn't be obviously rude. That bastard Moss had the ear of the chief of police and every other idiot who didn't know him well. Lynch hated those phony golden locks which Moss probably tinted. The asshole was at least forty-five years old and still looked like a Boy Scout. Not a wrinkle on that smirking kisser.

Lynch punched the phone button viciously and chirped, "Good morning, Deputy Chief Lynch speaking.

May I help you?"

"It's I, Chief. Hec Moss," said the commander, and Chief Lynch grimaced and thought, It's I. Oh shit!

"Yeah Hec."

"Chief, it's about the MacArthur Park orgy."

"Goddamnit, don't call it that!"

"Sorry sir. I meant the choir practice."

"Don't call it that either. That's all we need for the papers to pick it up."

"Yes sir," Moss said. And then more slyly, "I'm very cognizant of bad press, sir. After all, I squelched the thing and assuaged the victim's family."

Oh shit! thought Lynch. Assuaged. "Yes, Hec," said the chief wearily."Well sir, I was wondering, just to lock the thing up so to speak, I was wondering if we shouldn't have the chief order quick trial boards for every officer who was at the orgy. Fire them all."

"Don't . . . say . . . orgy. And don't . . . say . . . choir practice!"

"Sorry sir."

"That's not very good thinking, Hec." The chief tilted back in his chair, lifted his wing tips to the desk top, raised up his rust colored hairpiece and scratched his freckled rubbery scalp. "I don't think we should consider firing them."

"They deserve it, sir."

"They deserve more than that, Hec. The bastards deserve to be in jail as accessories to a killing. I'd personally like to see every one of them in Folsom Prison. But they might make a fuss. They might bring in some lawyers to the trial board. They might notify the press if we have a mass dismissal. In short, they might hurl a pail of defecation into the air conditioning."

Chief Lynch waited for a chuckle from Moss, got none and thought again about Moss' low IQ. "Anyway, Hec," he continued, "we have a real good case only against the one who did the shooting and I think we're stuck with that. We'll give the others a trial board and a six month suspension, but we'll take care of it quietly. Maybe we can scare some of them into resigning."

"Some goddamn shrink at General Hospital's saying that killer's nuts."

"What do you expect from General Hospital? What're they good for anyway but treating the lame and lazy on the welfare rolls? What do you plan to do about that dumbass detective who examined the officer the night of the shooting and ordered him taken to the psychiatric ward?"

"Ten days off?"

"Should get twenty."

"Afraid he might complain to the press."

"Guess you're right," Chief Lynch conceded grudgingly."Well, hope you're happy with our office, Chief!"

"You did a fine job, Hec," Deputy Chief Lynch said. "But I wish you'd talk to your secretary. I've had reports she didn't say 'good morning' twice last week when my adjutant called."

"Won't happen again, Chief."

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The Choirboys 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such a good book. I hated lt to end. The characters are totally believable. His other books are worth the read also
CoCoVanAron More than 1 year ago
I could NOT put this book down. I found it disturbing and exciting all at the same time. As a police dispatcher in a metropolitan city I found the attitudes of the cops in the book to be similar to my officers even though there is a 30-40 year age difference in time. It is almost impossible not to become cynical with the streets after doing law enforcement work for any amount of time. I will be continuing on with Mr Wambaugh and his many books. On occassion we have "Choir Practices" not quite like these boys but similar. Not in a park but a bar.
Jeff Schmittinger More than 1 year ago
I read this book many years ago. I don't think I have ever read a funnier book. It started me down the road to being a real fan of Joesph Wambaugh. Buy it, you won't regret it.
Oscar Campbell More than 1 year ago
sad to say it is very real! I began to look at my cop hubby a little closer! a inside look at the ' mean streets' of LA! Go ahead take a PEEK!
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
As I write this THE CHOIRBOYS has become an icon, the predecessor of and model for so many police focused books to follow. Have no idea how many remember the way Joseph Wambaugh, a former LAPD detective sergeant, burst upon the literary scene first with The New Centurions, a story that shocked, thrilled, and shortly followed it with THE CHOIRBOYS, another eyebrow raising tale infused with authenticity. Many of you may have read the book or seen the film based upon the book, but it's an entirely new experience to hear it read by award winning voice performer Oliver Wyman. He's taken home five Audie awards and almost a dozen Earphone awards from AudioFile magazine, all richly deserved. Wyman's well trained voice perfectly reflects the tough grittiness exhibited by the characters, especially in the scenes when they get together in the wee small hours for drinking and womanizing. He speaks with the voices of those 1970s Los Angeles cops and their supervisors giving them life once again. This is vintage Wambaugh, the bestselling author at the height of his powers, and Wyman giving THE CHOIRBOYS the delivery a groundbreaking novel deserves. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
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MarcoB More than 1 year ago
Joseph Wambaugh, the master of dark humor, goes over the top in this classic. following Sperm whale whalen, Roscoe Rules, Calvin Potts and the rest of this shift is amazingly funny. Other parts of this novel, reading of things that cops see in the course of their shifts will break your heart. Almost every negative stereotype of cops comes out in this book in technicolor, but you can't help but love and cheer for the protagonists. A 'dont let this happen to you' primer for police officers.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I can not tell you how many times I laughed out loud. This was the funniest book I have ever read. The only thing better than the laughs was the ending.