Author Joseph Wambaugh

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on November 24, 2002

What has happened to Joseph Wambaugh? I thought he was one of the best crime writers.
—Wesley A., Minnesota

Your opinion is shared by many readers and critics who were thrilled to see new work from the 65-year-old writer after a six-year hiatus. Fire Lover: A True Story came out earlier this year. It moves from the police department to the fire department, offering the true story of John Orr, an arson investigator in California who was exposed as a serial arsonist, responsible for four deaths. His crime was discovered when he allowed too many details to leak into his firefighter-based novel. Wambaugh, a former detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, wrote his first novel, The New Centurions, in 1971, after 10 years with the department. His first nonfiction book, The Onion Field, was a follow-up success, and he left the force to be a full-time writer in 1974. He continued to write both fiction and nonfiction, adapting his books for the movies and television. When he heard the story of Orr, he was inspired. "Here was a guy that wanted to get on the LAPD, where I was, and he wrote a novel," Wambaugh said in an interview with "I'm thinking: the guy wants to be me." Wambaugh lives with his wife in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He isn't working on a new book, but who knows what may inspire him in the future.