Truth to tell, I have a real love/hate relationship with memoirs. Because I very much enjoy reading about people’s lives (an unappreciative therapist might term my predilection voyeurism), I gravitate toward the biography and memoir section of libraries and bookstores. But despite the fact that memoirs are, by definition, self-referential and are therefore—to one degree or another—filled with variations of me, me, me, I don’t really enjoy (and therefore tend not to read) what I call the “Children of Job,” sub-genre of memoir-writing. You know the type, and I don’t need to name any names. Rather, what I’m looking for are engaging characters, enlightening and/or entertaining stories, and good writing. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorites. Here’s the first:
If you, like me, could watch “Law and Order” reruns eight hours a day, or if you’ve ever been curious about the inner workings of police departments, you’ll want to rush right out and read Edward Conlon’s Blue Blood. After graduating from Harvard, Conlon came home and joined the New York City Police Department, walking a beat in some of the worse housing projects in the South Bronx. His wide-ranging book is partly a memoir of his experiences (he is now working as a detective for the NYPD); the effects— pro and con—of the Giuliani anti-crime years; the Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo cases; 9/11; and the scandals and the triumphs, both large and small, that mark the history of the NYPD. Nicely written (some of it appeared in the New Yorker as “Cop Diary,” written under the pseudonym Marcus Laffey) and filled with interesting characters (both cops and perps— wait, make that suspected perps), this is both a pleasure (and an education) to read.