Hollywood. Saturday night. A broken taillight leads to a routine traffic stop. It shouldn’t have changed the lives of the four men involved, but it did. The Onion Field is the frighteningly true story of a fatal collision of destinies that would lead two young cops and two young robbers to a deserted field on the outskirts of Los Angeles, towards a bizarre execution and its terrible aftermath.
The Onion Field is the basis for the movie starring James Woods and John Savage.
©1973 Joseph Wambaugh (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“More ambitious than In Cold Blood and equally compelling.” (The New York Times)
“Wambaugh is the best in the business.” (Kathy Reichs)
“No other writer illuminates the heart beneath the badge better or more honestly than Joseph Wambaugh" (Robert Crais)
Bibliophile, English Teacher, Wordsmith
This true story is of a murder that shocked the City of Angels, and became the impetus for dramatic change in police procedure, both in potential hostage situations, and, much later, in recognizing and understanding emotional trauma, PTSD, and survivor's guilt.
The characters are depicted with precision. I feel like I know them, or knew them, as the last of the four recently died (2012). Wambaugh is a master, a former policeman who writes with sensitive eloquence, an understanding of the people and places that makes his work leap off the page and seize your senses.
I first read this book many years ago and have never been free of its spell. The audiobook is even better. The memorable individuals, immortalized in this, Wambaugh's best work, continue to puzzle and fascinate. The onion field is very near what is now Interstate 5 in California's San Joaquin valley, just over the Grapevine from LA. I travel this road frequently, and never pass it without a nod and a prayer for the victims, the fateful events so hauntingly penned here, and the loss of innocence that touched so many people. Thank you, Joseph Wambaugh, for this historical treasure.
This is my favorite true crime book. Joseph Wambaugh brings three dimensional personalities to these real life characters, without judging them; That is left up to the reader/listener. A mixture of comedy within this awful tragedy. Jonathan Davis is a superb narrator for this particular book. If you have seen the film (a must if not) Mr. Davis skillfully captures a fine interpretation of the actor's voices...especially James Wood.
The narrator, the prose like writing, so many things.
It's very hard to say what was best. This book is so intense about so many human feelings and behavior.
Not sure,but he was terrific!
Yes I did many times. Mostly cried especially for the officers.
This book is long, so I wasn't sure I'd like it. It is worth every minute of time. Has to be one of the very best books I've listened to or read. Incredible!
My favorite genre is Mysteries. Thank you Audible for keeping me company on my commute, doing chores, etc. What a treat!
This incident happened before I was born, but my Dad was always a reader of Joseph Wambaugh so I thought I'd check it out. It's very well done, without sensationalism or exploitation. Spoiler Alert*** It was haunting to hear the impact of the crime on the surviving officer and so frustrating that LAPD did nothing to help him in the aftermath. It was a different time. Also, it gave interesting insight into why retrials happen, why these types of cases just go on and on in the courts. But it did so without becoming dry or detailed. It was really well done and I'm interested in reading more Wambaugh books. I think I'll check out "The Blooding" next.
A very refreshing story told in a very unusual way - starting with the childhoods of the main protagonists and working through the crime and the subsequent drama in their lives. Fascinating details of how each of them is impacted by the crime and an enthralling read. Thoroughly recommended.
Been on/off with Audible since '07, when I found myself long-term in China, desperate for English language books. Love a good story.
My dad recommended this book to me, as he spent 25 years in law enforcement, and said it was particularly affecting. The case in this book reverberated across police departments the nation over, impacting the way many of them interacted with dangerous people. I see why Joseph Wambaugh went on to do this full-time, because the story is gripping, and we get a great sense of all four of the lives and perspectives of the major players involved in the story.
Yes! I try not to look up too many details of a true crime story as I'm reading or listening to it, since I don't want to spoil certain pieces. So I only looked this up in greater detail once I knew who died/the main incident.
"The Gardener" is an excellent device for driving the story. If you get this audiobook, you'll meet him and know what I mean.
Not because it was happy, but the actual events The Night in the Onion Fields are WONDERFULLY written and read. You feel the same stress and fear and confusion all these men must have felt.
I felt quite sad for Karl Hettinger. It seemed a deep tragedy equally as much for the ones who DID make it out of the Onion Field, who carried that burden far and long. Though I didn't feel very much sympathy for him, Jimmy Smith is portrayed as the unlucky, dumb, complex person he probably was.
Joseph Wambaugh, a master at storytelling, I found this book almost too heard to continue listening... he puts you right in the middle of the event! At times too frightening!
THIS IS A TRUE STORY. UNBELIEVABLE
POOR PARTNER WHO LIVES.
GETTING THE KILLER.
I WISH EVERY WAMBAUGH NOVEL WAS IN AUDIO FORMAT!!!
This was a great story of what policemen do every day. They can be on an ordinary patrol one moment, and dead the next. It's a stressful job. The book was so gripping in its descriptions of the individuals. I felt so heartbroken for those 2 young policemen and the agony of the aftermath for the survivor. Well written, well read. A terrible and procedural changing tragedy in my opinion. I once was married to a policeman.
My wife and I listen to audiobooks while driving on long trips. Some books are fantastic, and some are just mediocre based either on a poor story, poor writing, or a poor choice for narration. But we always listen to them from start to finish and enjoy them.
We bought this audio book based on the ratings, the synopsis, and the sample read. We started the book the other day, and listened to it for roughly half an hour before turning to one another and commenting, "this book is just bad!". How disappointing. Fortunately, we had another book in reserve that was utterly fantastic (Stone Cold: Joe Pickett).
What was wrong with this book? Well...
It started off SUPER slow with pointless and endless backgrounds on the two main characters and how much they had in common. Had this built to something, fine. Again, we listened for a good half hour before giving up. It didn't build to anything. In fact, the whole book seemed to progress at this same slow, pointless pace. There was so little of interest in moving any sort of plot forward that it was just painful.
Next, the narration accentuated the fact that the story was slow and dull. The narrator would've been fine for a better book, but for this one it seemed to just drive home that the book was putting the narrator to sleep as he read it.
Anyway, needless to say that we didn't get any farther into it than we did. But we did give it a fair try. This is the first book of the 12 we've listened to that we gave up on.
Hopefully this review saves someone else the disappointment we experienced.
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