Exit Wounds

It’s hard to tell if Orin Boyd is a good cop or a bad cop in John Westermann’s mystery novel “Exit Wounds”. But that’s part of the fun and suspense in this raw

and edgy police drama that brims with black comedy.

Police Officer Orin is unceremoniously dumped at Camp Cope, the New York

City’s rehab clinic for its police officers. Many of Orin’s police buddies

have been there at one time or another. However, Orin has actually gone

undercover for the New York City Commissioner. While it’s never really clear

if Orin's drinking problem is part of his undercover façade or a hard cold

fact, Westermann does a remarkable job of keeping the reader guessing until the

very last page.

Orin has been assigned to help cleanup the 13th Precinct in the unincorporated

Village of Belmont, a place that makes the Bronx look like a vacation resort,

from Westermann’s vivid descriptions. There’s really nothing new in the plot

line - highly ranked officers covering up a crime they committed, corruption

among the lower ranks, drug lords, junkies and prostitutes swarming the streets

until we wonder who’s really in charge. Orin teams up with George Clarke, a

man who can’t seem to stay married and would rather nap in his squad car

behind some abandoned factory than try to curb crime. George spends most of his

shift in the back room of one of the local bars or at the apartment of his

mistress, Gloria.

Orin’s assignment is to bring down Inspector Jimmy Donnelly, Sergeant Dominic

Ril, and Detective Bobby Shaw for the murder of Ossie King. Orin gets a lot of

his information from a homeless man, Abraham "Batman" Wilson. When

Batman turns up dead, all hell breaks loose. Orin cleans up the Lucky Thirteenth

in a way that is simple and complex at the same time. As he makes his way

through the streets of Belmont in a stolen bus, you’ll find yourself cheering

for this good cop/bad cop guy.

Exit Wounds is a gritty police drama about men on the edge, and about the

edge itself. One of the things I really liked about this work was that Orin’s

assignment is not cut and dry. The reader has to guess right along with George

and the rest of the cast exactly who Officer Orin Boyd is, and what he is up to.

Westermann’s crackling and often humorous dialogue is as real as it can get

outside the precinct building. The movie rights to Exit Wounds have

already been snapped up to hard-edged tragi-comedy, and according to Soho's

website, Steven Segal has signed on to play tough Orin Boyd.

© 2000-2001 The Charlotte Austin Review Ltd.

John Westermann didn't waste a minute stopping for donuts during

the 20 years he spent as a cop in Freeport, Long Island: he was too busy taking

notes. His latest book is dedicated to the men and women of the Freeport

Police Department below the rank of captain--even though his hero is

Nassau County Police Commissioner Frank Murphy, one of the few good guys in an

administration rank with corruption and self-interest. Murphy keeps himself

honest by pouring out his doubts and anger to his severely brain-damaged younger

brother, Wally, on their nightly outings in search of fast food and childhood

memories. One of the other good people in the administration--Elizabeth Lucido,

the sharp and attractive deputy to the odious County Executive Martin

Daly--disappears from her home at the book's outset, the second (but not the

last) top Republican woman to vanish under suspicious circumstances. When it

comes to light that Lucido was secretly sleeping with--and giving inside

information to--Daly's straight-shooting Democrat-opponent, all kinds of things

hit Murphy's fan. Trying to help him solve the cases and keep his job are ace

detective Maude Fleming and her partner Rocky Blair, a muscular type not

anywhere near as dumb as his fellow officers like to think. It's hard to believe that anyone other than perhaps the corrosively cynical Terry Southern could have invented the menagerie of crooks, thugs,stoners, idiots, geeks, and creeps masquerading as public officials in this remarkable novel. One can only conclude that Westermann's two decades as a Long Island cop supplied the material for his withering portrait of the vulgarity, venality, viciousness, and consummate corruption of Nassau County politics.

It's a week before Election Day, and the long-entrenched Republican machine is in

danger of losing. The county executive's top advisor, Elizabeth Lucido,

disappears. Police Commissioner Frank Murphy has no shortage of suspects;

unfortunately, they are all movers and shakers, and the job he likes very much

is theirs to take away. Murphy must shield his detectives' independence, recover

Elizabeth, arrest the perp, and attempt to keep his job. Read as a roman aclef,

this novel is utterly frightening. Let's assume that Westermann is exaggerating

experience for effect; then we're free to simply enjoy a good, gritty cop

walking a different kind of mean street.

June 15, 1998 Ex-police officer Westermann (The Honor Farm, 1996, etc.) returns to his suburban haunts for a tour of corrupt politics as Nassau County homicide

detectives Maude Fleming, who’s gay, and body-builder Rocky Blair gather evidence about the kidnapping of Deputy Nassau County Executive Elizabeth Lucido, who knows where all the bodies are buried on Long Island. She and her lover, Jackson Hind, a Democrat successfully challenging the arrogant Republican incumbent County Executive Martin Daly, hope to orchestrate the collapse of the last great political machine in America. But now Elizabeth, who is Daly's deputy and the brains of his campaign, has disappeared. Does Daly, who can speak only with a

forked tongue, know that Elizabeth is selling him out to Jackson Hind?

Meanwhile, Fleming is haunted by a similar case, the only unsolved homicide on

her resume, that of Barbara Babs Whitcomb III. In this gruff procedural, all

ties are suspect; even top police officers harbor motives for bad acts.

Westermann scores with Fleming and Blair, whose sidekick status (as with Holmes

and Watson) consistently deepens our interest amid cop tough-talk and the

pompous vulgarities of the politicians. And do we find out who waxed Babs? We

do. --Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Kirkus


December 15, 1991

Suburban Long Island, scene of Westermann's Exit Wounds (1990), is the

menacing background in the search for a cop killer. Westermann, one of the few

crime writers to realize that America is now the suburbs and that criminals live

in ranch houses too, uses the sprawl outside New York to great effect as

Detective Jack Mills seeks to become a real cop after years in the police

department's p.r. division. Mills, a handsome former athlete now in his 30s,

skated through his youth, supported by men and women who would do anything

for a jock. Now divorced and living alone after the departure of his latest popsy, the

homicide detective stands his first real police duty when he's charged with

finding out who murdered Arthur Backman, a policeman disliked by everyone he

knew, including his wife and yuppie son. Teamed with sexy Claire Williamson, a

more experienced and competent detective, Mills begins to turn up evidence of

Backman's corruption and his sordid liaison with a pathetic cop groupie, and

rather quickly Mills finds that he is poking into the affairs of the local

syndicate, the local Republican machine, and his own superiors at the police

station. He may be in over his head. Even more awkward, he has become more than a little smitten with Detective Williamson, a very difficult woman to impress.

Things get uglier as another rotten policeman dies and a nice little old Irish

lady is menaced by a villain on a ten-speed. Good stuff. Westermann paints

people rather than types and puts them into a palpable world of strip malls,

frontage roads, and postwar subdivisions. Gangsters in the townships are as

creepy as their brothers in the boroughs. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus

Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

The Honor Farm

October 1, 1996

Westermann's protagonist, Long Island cop Orin Boyd, is a likable maniac.

Nearing retirement, he has managed to never get promoted in a police force where

virtually everyone is in charge of something. When Orin punches out a crooked

state senator he finds assaulting a woman, the police commissioner has the tool

he needs to investigate the Island's country-clubbish prison for bent cops. The

commish's son, it seems, has died there, officially a suicide, just days before

his scheduled release, and Orin becomes the Honor Farm's newest inmate. Orin, of

course, has lots of enemies both on the farm and off, and before his undercover

work is over, he is comparing his assignment to his Marine Corps stint at

besieged Khe Sanh. Westermann is a talented storyteller. Perhaps more important,

he's a real cop, and his mix of mordant humor, twisted cops, and Byzantine Long

Island politics sounds like it could have come from the pages of Newsday

as easily as from his imagination. The Honor Farm is a winner, and cop

novel fans need to put Westermann's books on their required reading list.

Thomas Gaughan

Copyright© 1996, American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Kirkus

Reviews  October 1, 1996 A whodunit with a twist--instead of going undercover on the mean streets and leafy suburban lanes of New York's Nassau County (as he did in Exit Wounds, 1990), Patrol Officer Orin Boyd goes to jail to learn whether the prison-cell death of Police Commissioner David Trimble's son was a suicide or murder. And what a jail it is. Nicknamed the Honor Farm, the Nassau Country Correctional Facility at Sands Point is a former Gold Coast mansion that provides cushy containment for convicted police. With the exception of occasional shifts in the prison's slaughterhouse and a rare round of janitorial chores, the Honor Farm

offers an almost comical regimen of nonstop rest and recreation for 20 crooked

cops, many of whom know (and hate) Orin Boyd. And now is their chance to do

something about it. As soon as the gates squeak shut on Boyd, who's agreed to be

arrested and sent there as a cover for his investigation, his family finances

are wiped out by a computer-hacking con who's chummy with some cops whom Boyd once arrested. Tommy Cotton, a corrupt senator Boyd humiliated during a traffic stop, tries to have Boyd beaten up. A creepy con named Harmless George goes after Boyd's wife, June, and another group of cons secretly launches a scam to buy the Farm. After one more apparent suicide, it's difficult to tell the

schemers from the scammed as Boyd, a proud Vietnam vet blessed with equal

helpings of brains and brawn, takes on all comers, uncovering a sad truth about

crooked cops and the people who bend them to their will. A wry, street-smart,

bare-knuckles, behind-bars brawl that bears up under a thick plot and a large

cast of dirty denizens. Fans of the police procedurals of early Wambaugh and

late McBain will delight in the gruff sensibilities of Westermann's heroes and

the unregenerate sleaziness of his villains. --Copyright ©1996, Kirkus

Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


John Westermann brings a fresh twist to the police

procedural by setting his story among dirty cops who have already been busted

for their misdeeds. The Honor Farm is a minimum-security ;country

club; prison on Long Island for the tarnished shields of New York; the

inmates play tennis, grow their own food, and worry only that their cushy

hoosegaw will be shut down, in which case they would be sent to a normal

(meaning much less comfortable) penitentiary. When local cop Orin Boyd assaults

a state senator, he is sent down for 6 months on the Honor Farm; but his

sentence is merely the cover for a secret assignment. The police commissioner's

son, also a cop, was recently found hanged in the prison one day before his

scheduled release, and Orin is supposed to find out whether the death is suicide

or murder. No sooner does Boyd arrive when another inmate is found drowned in

the swimming pool; soon, the Boyd family's house is burned down and their bank

accounts emptied by a hacker. Unfortunately, Orin has so many enemies he doesn't

know who to blame for his problems: the state senator who he assaulted, the

deputy warden he taunts at every opportunity, the dirty cops he put in jail,

someone who doesn't want him looking into the suspicious suicides, or a

mysterious stalker operating on the fringes of the action.

The author knows his turf, having been a Long Island cop for 20 years,

and he makes brilliant use of the Honor Farm setting to undergird his intricate

plot. Boyd himself, though appealingly tough and resourceful, is somewhat

overshadowed by the many secondary characters who represent every pathology of

police power -- especially the loss of the ability to do the right thing instead

of going along and getting along. There are maybe a few too many showy crimes,

but I took this as the author's attempt to make his story exciting rather than

purely gratuitous violence. I also appreciated the look inside a country-club

prison -- people talk about them all the time, but I'd never read a book set in

one before. Westermann offers everything a procedural fan is looking for:

realistic detail, imaginative plotting, lethal but energetic characters, and a

healthy dollop of cop attitude.