Books: Talking Blues

COPS: THEIR LIVES IN THEIR OWN WORDS

The bar talk of cops, like that of medical students and war correspondents, tends to be gruesome, outrageous and, in a brutal sort of way, funny. No doubt it gets slightly funnier when there is a civilian around whose leg can be pulled. Interviewer Mark Baker, however, clearly knows how to nod and outwait the baloney as he plays the journalist's strongest card, which is his knowledge that people have a powerful urge to explain themselves.

In this useful work of reportage, Baker, who recorded the recollections of Viet Nam veterans in his 1982 oral history, Nam, gathers the gripes, boasts,...

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