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The Choirboys

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,195 ratings  ·  185 reviews
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. Each wears his cynicism like a bulletproof jockstrap–each has his horror story, his bad dream, his night shriek. He is afraid of his friends–he is afraid of himself.
Paperback, Crime masterworks #10, 368 pages
Published April 18th 2002 by Orion (first published August 4th 1976)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  5,195 ratings  ·  185 reviews

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Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Despite being a big crime/mystery fan, I’m not really into the scores of police procedural novels or dozens of TV shows that litter the networks these days. For me, all of these stories try to portray the various kinds of cops as politically correct robots who go about their jobs with a kind of determined detachment except for maybe the occasional bit of angst to add a little faux drama to the mix.

To get me interested in a cop story these days, it has to be some kind of ultra-realistic look at
So that was The Choirboys. Interesting. Alright how to review this novel? There have been a few fellow Goodread reviewers who have asked me how the book stacks up to the real thing. Is is it accurate and truthful? Are cops really like that and so on and so forth. After giving it some thought I think the best way to approach this reviw is to break it into sections. So here goes.

ACCURATE & TRUTHFUL (with some reservations)

The book is mostly a series of events leading up to a tragedy. There is no
S.P. Aruna
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you only want to read one book by Joseph Wambaugh, this should be it. (That was my objective). While his earlier novels made cops out to be unambiguous good guys, this one makes an attempt, a bit satirical perhaps, to tell it like it is.

You might want to call it a black comedy, or perhaps a police force version of Catch-22, but for me it was a very naked, inside look at the social and psychological challenges of being a police officer, particularly for those with serious personality flaws to
Feb 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whereas The New Centurions was a rather grey and grimy introductory work, The Choirboys was a raunchy and grinning buzzbomb of a shock, delivered when I was still young enough to hold that cops were a far different, more upright and austerely dignified breed of human than the noodle-legged, drunken clowns carousing and stumbling about MacArthur Park so perfectly etched by Wambaugh. Here was a group of average schmoes punching the clock, dealing with the annoying and overbearing bureaucratic ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
James Ellroy, who incidentally provides a great introduction to the book cited this as an inspiration and had my interest piqued. But nothing could have prepared me for The Choirboys. It is simultaneously one of the funniest and bleakest book I have ever read, a crime book that doubles as satire. Wambaugh about to quit LAPD after fourteen years, unloads years of pent up frustration here somehow converting it into a crime classic. This is as raw and crude as it gets. It imagines LAPD as a combina ...more
Scott Sigler
For writers, this book is a fantastic example of defining and developing memorable characters by showing their day-to-day, repetitive traits. Wambaugh's characters pop fully formed into your head, set up shop, and hang out for the entire time you're reading the novel.

It would have been a four-star for me, except the repetitive traits became too repetitive. Whaddaya Mean Dean's schtick quickly grew old. Instead of his repetitive, oblivious questions being awesome seasoning, they became the full m
Ben Winch
May 15, 2013 added it
Shelves: american, pulp, anglo
This was good. Moving. Funny. It went on too long in places – got lost in its own sexual/scatalogical humour – but it stayed interesting overall and kept me reading, mostly with enjoyment, through 400+ pages, till the end. I didn’t read it for the quality of the prose, but the prose was good – good enough. I read it for the characters, the laughs, the glimpse of something foreign, exotic and mostly pretty much believable. I read it cos I hit a few bumps in the road and felt like lying on the bed ...more
Rob Damon
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remember those times when you were a child, on those rare occasions when you were allowed to stay up late and you got to see what TV shows and films your parents watch after you’d gone to bed? If, like me, you are old enough to have been a child when it was unheard of, or very rare, to have a TV in your room, then you might relate to the previous sentence.

Those nights, either because my parents were away and I was being looked after by a not so strict baby sitter, or was up late for some other u
Bernie Weisz
May 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mature content
Recommended to Bernie by: a coworker!
Written by Bernie Weisz Historian Pembroke Pines, Florida e mail

Title of Review: "The Choirboys: An Authentic 1975 Predawn Nightmare!"

In 1975, a Los Angeles Police Department officer-turned-novelist named Joseph Wambaugh wrote the controversial novel "The Choirboys". Still a hot book, Wambaugh wrote this almost 40 years ago! What was happening in 1975? Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, the city of Saigon on April 30th was surrendered to the North Vietnamese
Judy Steiner marino
Excellent story everyone should read!

This story has it all! I found myself laughing, getting angry, shredding tears and more as I went along for the ride with these LAPD men (& women). You can see how they are just ordinary people with many ordinary problems ... Then add in the stress and circumstances of a working policeman in a city like Los Angeles. It lets you see how the effects on the psyche of these folks in blue can easily go south. PTSD is quite a real thing and it can break one down in
Phillip Thurlby
I'm a gumshoe kinda guy - I go for the classic, hard-boiled stories in the form of Chandler and Hammett and often have some apprehensions when it comes to police procedural(ish) stories. However, a colleague recommended this book to me and since I am working my way through the "Crime Masterworks" series I thought why not...?

Boy am I glad I did!

The story revolves around 70s LA cops who each have their own vices and troubles as they try to tackle the grim world they are empowered to protect. When
Elliott Hall
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Choirboys takes place in 1975 and follows the five pairs or partners as they try to deal with LA’s dangerous, insane and grotesque. Most crime novels center on a big case, or at least a single crime family. The Choirboys has a structure more like a ride along with certifiable patrolmen, which lets Wambaugh (himself a 14-year veteran of the LAPD) tell stories that are almost never told. Wambaugh’s experience mean it’s full of little details that I love, like the fact that they park thirty inc ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
At the start this book seems to be the usual patter about some odd ball cops. Somewhere around page 15 I realized this book is absolutely brilliant. A bunch of policemen unwind in LAs McArthur park, each party is more debauched and awful then the next as each party serves as a release valve. The writer was a policeman himself and each story shines through with an unparalleled veracity. The experiences flit from so funny it hurt to so jaw droppingly awful you cannot understand how anyone could be ...more
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre-thrillers
Hilarious and raunchy and great. Not sure how the movie adaptation failed with comedy this grotesque (just look at the casting, too: Louis Gossett, Jr; Charles Durning; James Woods; Randy Quaid, Perry King, Tim McIntire, Don Stroud, Burt Young...) and directed by the legendary Robert Aldrich and it still couldn't work.

Anyway yeah the book definitely rocks; the movie just wasn't allowed to be as dirty as it needed to be.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first novel Wambaugh wrote after retiring as a detective due to his newfound fame. The best book he's written with a distinct change in tone: dark, disturbing and overtly contemptuous of the LAPD. ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A classic and nearly classical cop tragedy.

This book starts out disgusting and dehumanizing. A bunch of worse douchebags you'd have a hard time finding. About halfway through the book, though, the author starts letting a little sympathy shine in, only to set up a horrific tragedy at the end.

I hated and enjoyed this one, which I think was the author's point. There is something to be said about his leaving out the worst of the real-life LAPD at the time, though. As bad as the characters here could
Mar 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
The gritty, unapologetic, unabashed inside view of...

Oh, who am I kidding? This is a gossip rag. Who's doing who, who's not doing who, who would like to do who, and ducks.

The book is a collection of stories centered around several LAPD officers who do very little police work. Their backstories are garbage. Just about every character wasn't worth pissing on if they were on fire. I was slightly entertained with the vice squad story and Sergeant Scuz, but he's only a bit player in one chapter and n
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I've enjoyed some of Wambaugh's books, but this one was dated and depressing. I gave it three stars because it was somewhat novel--no pun intended--for its day. Also, it probably was a pretty real view of what some cops went through, but it was a particularly sad group of cops. ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book back in 1976. I wasn't reading a lot back then just a selection of books that I thought I might really enjoy. I really, really enjoyed Wambaugh back in the day and I really, really enjoyed this one.

4.5 stars
Neal Alexander
Sep 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Combines the violence of James Ellroy with the mean-spiritedness of a gross-out movie.
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing

Someday when I'm feeling more eloquent I'll write a proper review of this book. I first read it almost fifteen years ago and I still reread it once every few years.

I've seen other reviews that call it "sociology not literature" and there may be something to that. What the book says about humanity is definitely the driving point. But Wambaugh's voice is uniquely suited to crime drama and I think the book is well paced, compelling, starkly descriptive, and the dialogue is excellent.

It's also hilar
Big Pete
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An influential classic and uproarious pitch-black comedy.
I'll knock off the cons quickly - Wambaugh isn't the finest or a particularly economical prose stylist, and though the situations are believable, his sentences sometimes aren't. However, he doesn't overwrite much and he DOES get a passing grade on this matter, and I suspect that The Choirboys wouldn't be quite as funny if he'd been more economical. Here's an analogy. The Choirboys like sitting down to a banquet comprised of aestheticall
Gail Cooke
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 entirel
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, thriller

A very gritty, and often amusing, look at life as an on-the beat cop in the 70’s in the USA. These aren’t the sort of boys in blue you think of with the generic police procedural book but this isn’t a standard police book.

Some of the characters are hit and miss, whattaya mean Dean was very one dimensional for example, but most are an interesting read. The story basically introduces a number of characters and then spends a set amount of time giving background information on them and then mov
Jeremy Smith
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the many things that i enjoyed very much about this book was that it showed an inside look into the lives of the men in blue even though it is a work of fiction. Joseph Wambaugh is a former policeman which allows him to articulate the lives of cops quite accurately. I also like the dialogue between the cops and how it adds to the imagery of the story and shows a different side of policemen. I believe that Wambaugh could have revealed more about each character.

In the book, the syntax cons
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Recommended" by a former police officer I know, this book is the 1975 scathing indictment of the LAPD in gruesome detail that will, with its rocket-propelled narrative style, take the reader from out-loud laughter to gutter-bound contempt and then into deep sadness. The black comedy in these pages kind of only works if you kind of don't give a fuck for most of humanity, which is kind of one of the underlying messages of the book - whether it can be taken seriously or not. The title is a euphemi ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books. I've read it three times since the initial read, and intend to read it again every once in awhile. This book is very well written and runs the gamut of emotions. It's shocking, sad, engrossing, sometimes even a bit touching, and often flat-out hilarious. The first time I read it I was still in high school and would often read late at night. On at least two occasions while reading this book I woke my parents up with loud, uncontrolled laughter. Wambaugh writes at ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably masterful. This book tells the story of a bunch of cops who have "parties" in the park, called "choir practices (hence the book's name).

The cops, all characters fashioned with incredible skill, are at times repellent, hilarious, fascinating, heartbreaking and lovable. Much like Wambaugh's Blue Knight, it isn't until you reach the final pages that you realize you have been swept off your guard, and the story is about people you suddenly realize are not who you were thinking they were
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
I didn't like this book to begin with, it all seemed a bit hard-boiled and the Police-Academy-meets-Porky's japes rankled. But then I saw that the cops' jobs had brutalised them: facing the worst of humanity every single day, sometimes you just got to drink, fight and use the expression 'ball' when referring to casual sex with cocktail waitresses. Gosh darn it, I began to care. I cried - twice, damn you. And I also sniggered at that classic gag: 'Madam, were you cut in the fracas?'. 'No, about s ...more
Peter Stuart
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the most inventive police novels I've ever read. Dark, humorous and at times heart breaking. The characters begin as gargoyle like parodies of alcoholic cops but as the novel progresses their individual circumstances and qualities come to the fore. I've found since reading this that I often find myself thinking of the characters and the stories involved. Wambaugh in general is just a genius. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Page number correction 7 27 Feb 08, 2014 05:39PM  

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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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“You have to experience it, in order to speak about it with authority. Joseph Wambaugh says it with an air of that same authenticity, in his stories of contemporary Police activities, and, with a disarming tongue in cheek, frankness. ” 6 likes
“Burglars and thieves sometimes complained that they only committed crimes against property, not like muggers and rapists. Muggers and rapists never faulted policemen at all, which caused the choirboys to comment that as a rule muggers and rapists were the most appreciative people they contacted.” 1 likes
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