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The New Centurions

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,907 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews

Ex-cop turned #1 New York Times bestselling writer Joseph Wambaugh forged a new kind of literature with his great early police procedurals. Here in his classic debut novel, Wambaugh presents a stunning, raw, and unforgettable depiction of life behind the thin blue line.
In a class of new police recruits, Augustus Plebesly is fast and scared. Roy Fehler is full of ideals.
Hardcover, 1st U.S. Edition, 384 pages
Published January 30th 1971 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 1970)
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Dan Schwent
Feb 04, 2013 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Serge Duran, Gus Plebesly, and Roy Fehler are classmates at the police academy and take to the streets after graduation. But will being police officers be as they thought?

The New Centurions follows the lives of three young men for five years, starting from their police academy days and into the Watts riots of 1965. I was expecting a simple cop story but got so much more.

Joseph Wambaugh was a cop before he was a writer and it shows. Both the cops and the people they encounter are three dimensiona
Sep 12, 2013 Checkman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in real police work
Good solid dramatic police fiction. Joseph Wambaugh's debut novel and one of his best. We follow three L.A.P.D. officers for five years (1960-1965) joining them as they are entering the academy and following them up to and through the riots in the Watts area of Los Angeles in 1965.

My father was a career police officer for twenty-four years. I grew up during the seventies and Wambaugh's books could always be found in our house. Like many other cops (and non police as well) during that time perio
Timothy Finnegan
This is the first book written by Joseph Wambaugh and it must count as one of the first of the "police procedurals" as we understand them today. Written by Wambaugh in the late 60's when he was a young policeman, it is free of any and all of the political correctness and tolerance taken for granted now by most of us; poor African Americans, Latinos, gay men, lesbian women are dangerous animals, criminal deviants and the game of the hunter, namely, the “paddy blue eyed motherfu….ers.” In Wambaugh ...more
Jan 20, 2011 DANIEL rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing that this is Wambaugh's first novel. Vivid and complex look at police life in LA in the early 60's; the novel tracks 3 new recruits and the hardships they face in 5 years on the force.
As with previous Wambaugh novels I've read, he writes some of the of the best black humored dialogue I've encountered.

An example from a scene where two vice cops discuss hookers at a local bar:

"Another thing, don't let old Dawn kiss you," giggled Ranatti. "She loves to snuggle around with guys she's hust
Brian Grover
Joseph Wambaugh, a former cop turned author, is one of the fathers of the police procedural genre, or so the internets lead me to believe. This, his first novel, is set in L.A. in the 1960s, and follows three young cops from their police academy graduation up through the Watts riots in the mid-60s. It's a cool concept for a book, and there were interesting nuggets of police work scattered throughout.

It also feels really dated, particularly the conversations about race, where everyone (particular
Patrick O'Neil
Intriguing premise, written by a former cop and all. But the language is way too dated, as is the racism and homophobia. I sort of gave up after the vice squad chapters. Some books hold up over time. This one did not.
Jun 02, 2012 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
The New Centurions, was one of three full-length fictional works Wambaugh wrote while still working in law enforcement in the 1960s; it follows three young men through their police training and early years on the LAPD force, with their fifth year of service coinciding with the historic Watts (California) race riots of Summer, 1965. The novel, in which Wambaugh narrates almost equal parts promise, resignation, and tragedy, is a good example of police during a pervious era. The use of adult langua ...more
Kim Fay
Feb 08, 2014 Kim Fay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intense! That's my single word sum-up of this novel. Following three rookie L.A. police officers from 1960 through the Watts Riots, it is brutally honest about attitudes toward race. It also shines a light on L.A. neighborhoods that very few people, outside of those neighborhoods, know anything about. It's the small details that make this book so compelling, as the officers patrol the Hollenbeck, Central and Hollywood Divisions. Of great interest to me were the bits and pieces on Boyle Heights, ...more
ruben atadero
Nov 27, 2015 ruben atadero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in 1988 as a college student studying literature and journalism. I was quickly intrigued by the police lifestyle and the descriptions of daily challenges of living among the fearful, feared, and fearless. The transitions experienced by the characters were so realistic, I decided I needed similar life experiences to draw from if I wanted to be successful as a writer. After spending nearly 25-years in federal law enforcement, I've been filled with a cache of encounters and e ...more
David Ward
The New Centurions by Joseph Wambaugh (Dell Centurions 1970) (Fiction - Mystery). It is 1950. The master storyteller, the man who created the genre of "police procedurals," is here with a tale about the trainees in the ranks of New York City cops. They will learn everything they need to know to survive on the streets. This is the tale of their training. My rating; 7/10, finished 1986.
Jim A
Jul 11, 2013 Jim A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a reread for me, first read about 40 years ago when it was published.

Bruce Snell
Mar 12, 2012 Bruce Snell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was Joseph Wambaugh's first book and demonstrates why he has had a long and much praised career. This book follows the careers of three police officers from the police academy thru the first five years of their service - ending with the Watts riot in 1965. We see them entering the academy as young inexperienced men; we see their faults and strengths - Gus who believes he is a coward; Serge a Mexican who wants to pass as an Anglo; and Roy an arrogant, elitist who is biding his time before ge ...more
Jerrie Brock
Aug 17, 2013 Jerrie Brock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of his earliest books, and perhaps one of the first adult fiction books I ever read. His style, his stark honesty, and his realism may have helped spur my love of writing. All his works are a learning experience, providing insight into people, their qualities, faults and thoughts. Perhaps because he was able to provide portraits of people to encourage understanding, I have always remained a huge fan. So I recently began to re-read some of his work to once again find the inspiration he sparke ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Karla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The New Centurions, Joseph Wambaugh (3)
Joseph Wambaugh is highly respected as an author of very ‘real’ fiction, specifically concerning inter-city police drama. As a retired LA police sergeant who worked in the 60’s, Mr. Wambaugh has unique experience and views of police life. This book follows three police rookies in LA just prior and during the famous Watts riots. Each section has three chapters (one first person for each officer) and skips a year for each section. You follow the three from th
I didn’t realize this was Wambaugh’s first book. THE ONION FIELD was the first of his books I read and became an instant fan. In THE NEW CENTURIONS Wambaugh gives insight to how the police officers felt during their rookie year; reaction to some racially charged times; and insight to the cops reactions to the Watts riots.
Dec 28, 2015 Geni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strong character studies of fictional rookie policemen through the first five years of their careers in 1960s L.A. While informative, gritty and interesting, it lacks a cohesive plot. Therefore this novel was not as absorbing to me as some are.
Bernard Schaffer
One of the reviews for my book Superbia said, "Step aside Joseph Wambaugh." I'm here to say that can never be the case. I read this book on duty as a young cop, and it really had an impact on me. Not just for the sake of the book, but for the fact that someone actually found a way to take all of the insanity that goes into The Job and turn it into literature. A few of the scenes still stick with me to this day, which I believe is the hallmark of a truly great piece of art. I wouldn't be doing wh ...more
Joyce McKune
Aug 10, 2013 Joyce McKune rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
I usually really like cop books, even old ones, but this one was a little disappointing. I guess you can never get to know the characters in a single book like you do in a series, but I was at least half way through the book before I could remember by name which guy was which by name. Maybe it's senility, or maybe it's that he seemed to go from calling them by first name, then last name like they were different people. The plot was interesting, I was too young when the race riots were happening ...more
Mark Nessing
Aug 13, 2014 Mark Nessing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, this book really pulled me in. Brought me back to the days before the Watts riots. Very well done!
Dan Petrosini
Mar 31, 2014 Dan Petrosini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read that follows a couple of newly minted police officers. The officer's fears and needs clash with the realities of the 'street' and they 'evolve'.
Jon Nielson
Probably a great cop book when it was written in the early 70's, but seems so dated now.
Aug 04, 2014 JoyAnna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
Another Joseph Wambaugh that is well worth reading if you like police procedurals.
Alex Rogers
I've just re-read this after many years, and enjoyed it again - the characters, pacing, writing are all interesting and well done. If you place this in context (ie it was one of the very first police procedurals, almost a genre-defining novel) it is an important book - and I was wondering how it stood up to its modern competition. The answer is - okay. It is still a good read, but doesn't carry with it the sense of discovery that I had the first time I read it - police procedurals are now a stap ...more
Jul 13, 2016 Joan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what I expected -- I thought it would be a whodunit -- but it was not. Nevertheless, I thought it was very good and may try more of this author.
Nov 23, 2014 Joanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of three policemen in LA in the 1960s including the Watts riots.
Michael L. Witt
Jul 27, 2015 Michael L. Witt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little dated, but excellent first book from Wambaugh.
John Beckman
Jan 02, 2016 John Beckman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent police procedural. A Wambaugh winner.
Aug 13, 2008 Robin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a cop story without a plot, being told in episodes over five disjointed years during the 1960s. I found it a slow read but compelling much of the time. It follows a group of rookies from training to the time when, as experienced beat patrolmen, they are caught up in chaos of the Watts riots. Wambaugh is a former LAPD detective and the book's USP is his gritty insider knowledge of the hidden fears and foibles of the boys in blue, who are portrayed as displaying shifting hues of heroism, c ...more
East Bay J
May 31, 2014 East Bay J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book but, in the end, I thought it was good. It follows three cops from the academy, through their individual paths and concludes with their reunion. Each officer has experiences as different as their personalities but they all struggle and ultimately grow as human beings. Wambaugh's experience as a cop brings an authenticity and realism that makes The New Centurians more interesting and engaging. Earthy, gritty and intense but also often touching and somet ...more
Evyn Charles
Nov 23, 2009 Evyn Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I had read a couple books by this author but this one--his first, I believe--is great. For fans of police-oriented books by authors like Michael Connelly. It follows 3 rookie LA cops in separate but intertwined accounts from their days at the Academy through their first 5 years on the job. Very gritty and realistic because Wambaugh used to be an LA cop for 10 years himself.
It takes places in the 1960s and culminates with the Watts riots in 1965 so there are a lot of interesting historical/c
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Joseph Wambaugh, a former LAPD detective sergeant (1960-1974), is the bestselling author of twenty-one prior works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Choirboys and The Onion Field. Wambaugh joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1960. He served 14 years, rising to detective sergeant. He also attended California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned Bachelor of Arts and M ...more
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