Stephen J. Cannell has created or co-created over 40 television
programs. My favorite is “Wiseguy,” which starred the
wonderfully named Vinnie Terranova, an FBI agent with the Organized
Crime Bureau (OCB). “Wiseguy” was a critical and
commercial success --- a dark, edgy show that portrayed police work
as anything but glamorous, and groundbreaking for its utilization
of story arcs.
In recent years, Cannell has switched his artistic focus to
writing novels; he is doing quite well with his Shane Scully series
and stand-alone works, most notably 2008’s magnificent AT
FIRST SIGHT. His latest, ON THE GRIND, is set comfortably in the
Scully mythos while incorporating elements of
“Wiseguy,” giving fans of both the book and television
series much cause to rejoice.
ON THE GRIND opens with Scully in dire straits, rousted from bed
--- literally --- and forced to resign from his job on the Los
Angeles police force for conduct unbecoming an officer. Given the
nature of the reason for his termination, the only law enforcement
position for which Scully can apply with any reasonable hope for
employment is with the Haven Park, California Police Department.
Haven Park is a small city within the environs of Los Angeles.
Self-designated as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, it is
in actuality a machine for corruption, operating at every level ---
from the police department on up --- to bleed money from as many
entities as possible. Drawing on a pool of disgraced Southern
California cops for employment, the Haven Park PD operates as a
well-oiled milking machine, obtaining income from sources as
disparate as towing cars (whether legally parked or not) to
protecting the street gang securely ensconced within its municipal
Scully, whose reputation as a good cop precedes him, is
initially viewed with suspicion by his fellow officers, his fall
from grace with the LAPD notwithstanding. After passing a couple of
department initiations, however, he is given his major assignment:
the assassination of a mayoral candidate who has pledged to engage
in the Herculean task of cleaning up the corruption in Haven Park
for good. Caught between the corrupt blue wall of Haven Park on one
side and a major FBI investigation on the other, Scully finds
himself in mortal danger to the extent that he can rely upon no one
except himself for help.
Cannell has historically infused his dramatic endeavors with an
inside-the-loop point of view, and he takes this practice to new
levels with ON THE GRIND. Scully provides an over-the-shoulder look
at police corruption, as well as street gang membership and arms
smuggling. The book’s long climax is particularly
fascinating. Cannell has a cinematic eye for detail that he brings
to the printed page with as much care and craft as he did to film.
The result is a story and a narrative that is exciting and
entrancing in every way.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011