The Secrets of Harry Bright by Joseph Wambaugh
This book is titled, The Secrets of Harry Bright by Joseph Wambaugh. It was published in 1985. I have read other novels by Joseph Wambaugh. He is a very intriguing author. He has a way of capturing his audience that is paralleled with few authors. In essence, he relates his writings to everyday life woven into crime, drugs and sex. It appeals to a more mature audience, which can appreciate Wambaugh’s rough portrayal of urban life. My first thought of the book was it lacked historical significance. Upon further thought it became apparent to me that history isn’t simply war or catastrophes; it’s an accumulation of everything that has preceded the time we live now. This novel made many references to Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and even William McKinley. It also viewed America as it was in the 1980’s. A time sometimes forgotten or often neglected to be mentioned. Through this novel you begin to grasp this time period and develop a sense of appreciation for it, because it did take place and is apart of our history. I believe Joseph Wambaugh is one of the forerunners in enlightening the American Public on a period, which deserves more recognition. And I believe strongly that Wambaugh set out to highlight this decade in our history and he most certainly succeeded.
Mineral Springs and Palm Springs, two cities near Los Angeles, is the setting of this novel. A wealthy businessman named Victor Watson has hired to LAPD detectives to solve his son, John Watson’s, year-old murder case. John was shot and killed in his father’s Rolls Royce that was in flames when investigators arrived on the scene. No leads were ever formed and this case was never solved and eventually put to rest. Victor couldn’t deal with the stress of his son’s death, because even though he was a multi-millionaire he had lost all those he loved and was contemplating suicide. Sidney Blackpool was mentioned to be a top-notch detective and certainly the man for the job. Victor offers Blackpool a two-week, luxury vacation, and is free to do investigating as he pleases. Blackpool enlists the help of his old friend Otto Stringer.
Mineral Springs police department, which consists of nine men, decides to lend the two detectives any resources they need concerning the murder. They basically follow a couple of bum leads, play a few rounds of golf, and soak up the peace and quiet of their surroundings. Its not until a young surfer cop by the name of O. A. Jones broke down and mentions something about the case. He was the first officer on the scene and had heard the suspect signing. This is relevant, because Sergeant Harry Bright of the Mineral Springs PD is known to be a good singer and is similar to the voice described by the young officer on the scene. Another Sergeant by the name of Coy Brickman is another suspect. He is Harry Bright’s closest friend. Blackpool is suspicious of Brickman, but believes that Bright is behind it all. One night Blackpool and Stringer sneak into Bright’s house, who has recently suffered a stroke and been hospitalized. They want to retrieve his gun and compare the chamber to the one found in John Watson’s head. Brickman appears from the dark and catches the two detectives off guard. Brickman is the one who murdered John Watson, because he disliked Victor Watson greatly. Victor had taken advantage of Mineral Springs and in a sense taken over the town. Harry Bright had known about it and didn’t want to betray his best friend, and suffered a stroke from all the anxiety involving this occurrence. Harry Bright’s good name is preserved and Brickman is arrested. Blackpool is offered a respectable job under Victor Watson, but declines due to the fact that he loves his job and wants to keep going. Blackpool and Stringer move to Mineral Springs with the intentions of joining their force. And alas the case of John Watson is put to rest. The moral of this story is to never give up on what you believe some how, some way you will succeed.