Apr 23

Book Review: The Job

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City CopThe Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop by Steve Osborne

I love reading or listening to stories about people who live very different lives from me, and Osborn is “not a liberal,” a working class, raised Catholic, non-intellectual Brooklyn cop for whom beating people up is as common and acceptable as getting parking validated. I have never beaten someone up, nor would I ever look down on a man who refused to beat someone up, nor do I think that early memories of hanging out with your dad in the bar at the age of 5 is a sign of good parenting. I’ve also never looked up someone’s ass with a flashlight. So, Osborn’s life is about as far as my life as you can get.

The stories are read by the author, and in the introduction he explains that he got started on this book because he did a story for The Moth podcast, and the producer brought him back again to do a second one. I think this help had a lot to do with the quality of this book. The stories aren’t just interesting vignettes, they’re well-constructed vignettes that have been crafted with a certain expertise. Maybe Osbourne is a natural storyteller, but I don’t think that’s all of it. I think his editor helped him tweak these experiences into good short stories.

For example, there’s a story called Mugshots, which starts out with him looking at mugshots of the people they’re going to arrest that day. He makes comments about how ugly the guys are, how hard they try to look badass. Then he goes through the story of going to the apartment where one of these “bad guys” lives, and meeting the guy’s mother, and how much differently the mother felt about the same ugly mugshot than the cop did. Without the mugshot motif tying together the beginning and the end, it would just have been a story about going to arrest someone who skipped his court date.

The other thing I liked about this book was that the author has a very distinctive accent which I found quite amusing. It was one of those times where having the author read the book really helped make the most of the humor. And he does have some great stories. I get the feeling that if I were in a bar with him, everyone would want to turn and listen.

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