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.
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.
THIS IS A TRUE STORY. UNBELIEVABLE
POOR PARTNER WHO LIVES.
GETTING THE KILLER.
I WISH EVERY WAMBAUGH NOVEL WAS IN AUDIO FORMAT!!!
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.
I am a voracious reader given the opportunity and can usually find some value in any book. I think there are only 3 books I never finished.
Better suited to someone who enjoys details of how someone's life has led them to this point.
No I will still try other books in this genre.
The narrator was fine.
I find the minutiae excruciating to read and would prefer more action
I got about half way before I gave up and still there was no onion field!
Fast paced and really enthralling. Wambaugh draws you in and never lets go. I love his books. Wish more were available on audible. Very credit worthy!
I love books and animals.I enjoy all sorts of genres, anything from history to supernatural.
This was a good book, but it felt as though it was longer than it should have been.
I think the author did a good job of injecting feeling and emotions into his work, but he included way too many details and was a bit too wordy. This reminded me of In cold blood by Truman Capote - but much wordier.
The narrator did a fantastic job - if it was not for this great narration I probably could not have finished this book.
Non Fiction Reader
No one knows how they will react to the trauma that Carl Hedinger under went when his partner was killed and he narrowly escaped. The perpertarors were two psychotic killers and everyday nobodies. The most interesting part of the book, to me, is the legal morass that caused trial reversals and delays and how lawyers play the system. The only conclusion that you can take away is that there is a clear division between law and justice. If the (defense) lawyers can play the system and delay long enough then no will really care that a human life was snubbed out by the two killers on trial.
The most tedious part was listening to the travails of Hedinger. He was undergoing what, today, is referred to a PTSD. At times you want to reach out and grab him and yell, "get a grip on your life." For this, I think, the author, gives too much credibility to Hedinger's emotions. Wambaugh does a good job of objectively discussing the legal system but, I think, for whatever reason, becomes emotionally committed to Hedinger and too fully sympathizes with him. I think he was susceptable to this disorder prior to the events in the onion field.. (I've known some people who claim PTSD and I beleive if someone had not come up with this disorder then they would have had to invent it as a rationale for their's and others' failures.) I got tired of hearing how Hedinger wallowed in his own sense of guilt for having lived. It reminds me of 60's psycho-babble.
It is for my own sense of unease and inability to "turn the page" that I give the story a 3-star rating.
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.
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