Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review of Days on the Beach

DAYS ON THE BEACH was published in 2009, seven years after author John Taylor retired from The Oakland California Police Department. He has since had another book published based on his experiences as a soldier in Viet Nam.

The phrase, days on the beach, is Oakland police slang for time spent on disciplinary suspension, and the cops in this story earn every beach day they are given. Although a work of fiction, I suspect the antics described in BAYS ON THE BEACH are not too far from reality. Cynicism is part of the armor cops wear to shield their psyches from what they deal with on the mean streets.

Officer Bull Brewster, disgusted at being dispatched to deal with a cat in a tree, asks the tearful owner, “Lady, you ever see a cat’s skeleton in a tree?” When the owner admits she hasn’t, he says, “That’s because cats don’t dies in trees. Your cat will come down when he is damn good and ready.”

Being rude to tearful old ladies is a minor transgression, but even that brings a scolding from Chief Ernie because of Bull’s record. Which includes such things as he and fellow officer Duke Washington donning gas masks and streaking naked through the morning briefing. When nothing is on the line, the OPD is a fraternity house gone wild. But a psychopathic pair of killers brings out the best in these cops who put their lives on the line without hesitation to do their job.

DAYS ON THE BEACH is an astounding piece of writing. The deadpan description of the most heinous crimes is chilling. Taylor’s juxtapositioning of pranks and depravity reflects the mental place cops have to reach in order to survive. Do not dwell on the evil. Just track it down and destroy it.

In its lighter moment, the story might be one spun by Carl Hiaasen. In its darker moments, it could have been written by Eddy Duran of STONE COLD KILLERS.

DAYS ON THE BEACH is not for everyone. It is grisly. It depicts wanton cruelty. But it is also funny, heartwarming, and well-written. When the story wasn’t chilling, I was usually either laughing or crying. Mostly the latter at the end.

John Taylor is an excellent writer, his prose unpretentious. He tells an honest story with a fast pace and a sympathetic voice.

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