Real Cops is most definitely billed as fiction, however Steven Billings did spend 24 years of his life involved with Law Enforcement, he spent time as a patrol officer, jail sergeant, and also patrol sergeant. I suspect that more than one of the tales that are related in this wonderful book have some anchor in reality!
Yes, there is death, yes there is a modicum of violence, but for the most part Real Cops is written with a wonderful up-beat perspective and in places some rib tickling humor.
Our hero is Chris Tempest. A man that has tenure with the force, but has fought many personal battles. He learned the hard way that the needs of the department often crash into the needs of family, that combined with the ever increasing ‘just a couple of beers’ with the boys found him divorced and confused. Chris is no quitter, he realized the problem, and although he had to take a bit of an official ‘lickin’ he is back on the job, this time on the day shift.
The heroine is Gail Krajick, Gail is a seasoned investigator, but due to what looks like a bit of a smelly Internal Affairs investigation finds herself back on Patrol duty.
To add insult to injury, Gail must once again ‘qualify’ to be a patrol officer. I am sure you have guessed it, Chris is the teacher, Gail is the pupil.
Although this all sounds a very depressing situation, it is not. Steven Billings has done a fabulous job of bringing these two characters to life. Neither are dumb, they have both been around the block more than once. The real joy in this book though, are the stories from the street. Some are sad, many are humorous, all are engaging.
It is hard to pick a favorite. Maybe because of my working with the homeless for several years, I would have to zoom in in the vignette of the homeless man who receives money monthly from his brother. Money in hand, he books a room in a very sleazy motel for a week every time the largess arrives. Well, hell, it is better than sleeping under the bridge! He even installs his girlfriend, of course, even though they share the same accommodations under the bridge for much of the month, she is only ‘friendly’, when a motel room is involved.
Needless to say, something goes badly wrong. I will not spoil the story, but it is both amusing and heart wrenching at the same time. Because this is a review, I don’t think it would be appropriate to wander off into my stories, but rest assured, I have plenty concerning the homeless and the police, and I have to say that the author portrays the relationship fairly accurately.
Another of my favorite stories has to be the warring lesbians, one is locked in the bedroom while the other is trying to make a name for herself as a major leage pitcher, her weapon of choice is not a baseball, but a seemingly endless supply of dinner plates that are being hurled off theÂ balcony at anything that moves, including the police.
I have to admit that I have never been a part of Law Enforcement, but Steven Billings seems to have all of the bases covered. The characters that he paints are rich in texture and depth, one of my favorites is the seasoned road warrior, patrolman Pops. Pops has been a patrol car driver for 30 some years, he has seen it all, and done it all. It is him that coins the phrase â€œ Real Cops wear uniforms and ride in patrol carsâ€, he has little time for the desk jockey’s, the only real policemen are the ones out there on the beat.
I enjoyed Real Cops a great deal, and Steven Billings has done a wonderful job of humanizing the lives of the average policeman. It is not a world of being Sherlock Holmes, it is a world of common sense, in unlikely situations. It is also not a world of handing out an endless string of traffic citations, but rather a case of making countless judgment calls.