Books: Really the Blues

THE NEW CENTURIONS by Joseph Wambaugh. 376 pages. Atlantic-Little Brown. $6.95.

Criminologists, law professors and judges have theories and ideas and observations about crime, but policemen know. Because they are just ordinary men, the burden of knowledge generally makes them clannish, somewhat smug and unusually prone to divorce and suicide. In the case of Joseph Wambaugh, a sergeant in the Los Angeles police department, firsthand knowledge has led to a workmanlike first novel, short on nuance, but notably convincing. It follows three L.A.P.D. rookies through five years on the force, climaxing in the terrorized disorder of the police effort to contain the...

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