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The New Centurions

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,203 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
From the baby-faced rookies to hashmark heroes, they are besieged men, dealing daily with a world coming apart. Hunting killers, rousting whores, quelling gang wars, fighting corruption, they risk death every day...every night. They are the Los Angeles blues - a new breed of cop.
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
Jan 24, 2011 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
Apr 29, 2012 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
Edmond Gagnon
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book back in the late seventies, when I was a rookie cop. Wambaugh's books and movie were all the rage way back then. The New Centurions was his first book, which he wrote while he still worked as a Los Angeles Police Detective. Wambaugh pioneered the crime fiction genre, taking readers where they'd never been before, inside the police car, to learn about the men and women behind the badge.
We see how the job affects cops as opposed to how they affect their job. The New Centuri
Samuel Tyler
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can look at any of the recent news headlines and see that being a police officer is not an easy job. You are faced with some of the worst people, or some of the best people on their worst day. Either way, whilst many of us can go through life living in a happy bubble that is rarely impinged on, the police must face the dark regularly. Joseph Wambaugh was a police officer himself and whilst still working in the force he was secretly writing a new type of crime fiction novel that was grounded ...more
Three young police officers can only watch as their lives are changed by the chilling realities of the job.

Published in 1970, this unflinching novel utilizes mesmerizing characters to grapple with a number of deeply rooted issues that are still hotly debated to this day.
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
Kim Fay
Feb 08, 2014 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
Jan 20, 2011 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
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 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
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
ruben atadero
Nov 27, 2015 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 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.

Robert W. Blue, Jr.
I first read The New Centurions when it came out in 1971 and it was a topic of discussion for its unvarnished portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department. During those years, the public was more used to the Hollywood version of the LAPD portrayed in shows like "Dragnet"and "Adam-12." The police officers in The New Centurions are very human adjusting to the demands of police work, dealing with marital stress, alcohol abuse, and even suicide all while encountering some of the worst elements of ...more
Alistaire King
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rings true about being a cop

Even though written about the early 60's it still rings true. Written episodically it tell the stories of three LA policeman. If you want to see the world as a policeman sees it you should read this. I doubt that it's lost any relevance.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dean by: The Week author
Shelves: american-history
I was referred to this novel as an accurate portrayal of police behavior in the late 20th century. I believe it is.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely good.
George Dudley
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
funny story
Terry Mills
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Although it was written some years ago it didn't date too badly. It has encouraged me to read more Wambaugh
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read back in the 70s
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Wambaugh, ex-cop turned best seller author, owned L.A. police procedurals in the 1970s. This 1970 entry was his sparking debut.

Police Novels - In a class of new police recruits, Augustus Plebesly is fast and scared. Roy Fehler is full of ideals. And Serge Duran is an ex-marine running away from his Chicano childhood. In a few weeks they'll put on the blue uniform of the LAPD. In months they'll know how to interpret the mad babble of the car radio, smell danger, trap a drug dealer, hide a
Bruce Snell
Mar 08, 2012 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 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 20, 2013 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
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 08, 2013 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
Evyn Charles
Mar 23, 2009 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
Nov 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: negra-y-criminal
Muy buen libro. Cuenta los primeros cinco años de servicio de tres oficiales de la policía de los Ángeles en los primeros años sesenta. La estructura es episódica, pero desgrana los capítulos a un ritmo vivo que facilita la lectura. El estilo narrativo recuerda a James Ellroy, quien advierte desde la solapa del libro que las novelas de Wambaugh le han influido enormemente. Si en sus otros libros el autor sustituye la concatenación de episodios por una trama bien urdida puede ser de lo mejorcito ...more
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
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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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