Paul Wheeler's Reviews > The Onion Field

The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh
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's review
Mar 14, 2012

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Read from March 10 to 13, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Although the covering and blurb may fool you into thinking this is a work of fiction, it tells the story of true events in 1963-the kidnapping and murder of two plainclothes LAPD police officers,and is written by a third.
It's written in the Real Fiction style, presenting the events as would a novel, covering the anatomy of a crime from the viewpoint of an omnipotent observer. We are taken through the criminal career of Gregory Powell and Jimmy Smith, as well as the lives of Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger, the policemen involved, before switching to the crime itself and the subsequent investigation.
In order to avoid spoilers I won't deal with the events themselves, but more Wambaugh's way of writing. His prose is somewhat laboured-although it is very sparse in the way it deals with events, attempting at all times to remain dispassionate even though written by a police officer barely ten years after the crime itself.
Perhaps because it's written by a police offer, the book seems deadpan-which is fine if you like that sort of thing. However, there are several striking passages, mostly connected to Campbell and his love of the bagpipes.
It's a book that you read more to pass time than to become deeply moved or involved-indeed the deadpan prose already mentioned positively discourages it. However, for any fans of the "true-crime" genre, this is a more than worthy addition to your bookshelf.

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