"How ya doin?"
With these four syllables, delivered in an unmistakably authentic New York accent, Steve Osborne has riveted thousands of people through the legendary storytelling outfit The Moth (and more than a million times on their website) with his hilarious, profane, and touching tales from his 20 years serving as an NYPD street cop. Steve Osborne is the real deal, people, the tough, streetwise New York cop of your dreams, one with a big, big heart. Kojak? NYPD Blue? Law & Order? Fuggedaboutem! The Job blows them out of the water with this unpauseable book.
Steve Osborne has seen a thing or two in his 20 years in the NYPD - some harmless things, some definitely not. In "Stakeout" Steve and his partner mistake a Manhattan dentist for an armed robbery suspect and reduce the man down to a puddle of snot and tears when questioning him. In "Mug Shot" the mother of a suspected criminal makes a strange request and provides a sobering reminder of the humanity at stake in his profession. And in "Home" the image of his family provides the adrenaline he needs to fight for his life when assaulted by two armed and violent crackheads. From his days as a rookie cop to the time spent patrolling in the Anti-Crime Unit - and his visceral, harrowing recollections of working during 9/11 - Steve Osborne's stories capture both the absurdity of police work and the bravery of those who do it. His stories will speak to those nostalgic for the New York City of the 1980s and '90s, a bygone era of when the city was a crazier, more dangerous (and possibly more interesting) place.
Includes two live stories from The Moth - "Hot Dogs" and "Dentist".
Stories from The Moth courtesy of The Moth.
"Cops are innately good storytellers, and Osborne must be one of the best." (Booklist)
"Steve Osborne is a born storyteller, and anyone expecting a cop book to be filled with action and adventure won't be disappointed with The Job. But what makes this story so powerful is its compassion and bittersweet comedy, the unexpected moments in which the worst situations bring out the best in people. Anyone who knows a cop - or wants to - should read this book." (Edward Conlon, author of Blue Blood)
"Nobody tells a cop story better than a cop, and Osborne tells them as well as I've ever heard (and I've heard a lot of them). Go buy this book, for the chases, the laughs, and the poignancy. Go buy it now, especially now, because for every bad cop there are 20 heroic ones - and Steve Osborne was one of them." (Brian McDonald, author of My Father's Gun: One Family. Three Badges. One Hundred Years in the NYPD)
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All style, little substance
Osborne's charm as storyteller and performer aren't enough to carry what is honestly a thin set of stories.
In full disclosure, I am one of the "liberals" Osborne loves to chide throughout his stories, and, in fact, I work in criminal defense. I bought this book because I wanted to listen and hear how Osborne sees and deals with the conflicts that accompany police work, and I was ready to take him and his viewpoint seriously. While his voice and stories are truly unique, Osborne comes off as a less-than-credible storyteller, and left me feeling like some of my worst fears about his profession might be true.
To begin, Osborne is not a reflective narrator. He dismisses people who criticize police work as "liberals" without addressing their viewpoint and considering their arguments against the kinds of tactics Osborne describes using throughout the book. Osborne's credibility would improve tremendously if he aired these issues and reflected upon them even a little bit, and his failure to do so makes me doubt so many of his impressions and conclusions about other characters in his stories.
I know Osborne isn't writing as a policy spokesman, but even the storyteller has to give his or her characters with some dimension to appear reliable. Can we believe his accounts that his use of force was always justified when he doesn't ever consider that the opposite might be true? Can we trust his impression that onlookers to some of his arrests are only acting out of anti-cop sentiment when he doesn't acknowledge the possibility of other motives? He goes so far as to refer to people in Tompkins Square Park as "subhumans" who go around making "crack babies" - how are we to trust a man with that outlook to tell us these stories, let alone protect public safety?
The book is clearly a set of stories written to stand alone. To Osborne's editor, I would recommend watching out for repetitive sidebars that Osborne uses in multiple stories, which work fine when the stories stand alone but looks sloppy when presented multiple times in the same book. It's an easy fix that would make the book flow better.
Osborne is at his best when describing characters whom he can endow with real depth and whose emotional universe he can open up for readers. His story about his father's death does this especially well, and I credit him for a touching story that shows his capabilities as a writer far better than some of his cop stories.
Osborne is also great at describing the nuts and bolts of police work - how things work, how cops run a big investigation, how he thinks about documenting evidence. These things don't get sacrificed during the excitement of a story, and that speaks of promising ability to move between registers.
Great Book for Traveling
- Johnnie Walker "Black"