The Golden Orange

Front Cover
Bantam Books, 1991 - Fiction - 412 pages
When forty-year-old cop Winnie Farlowe lost his shield, he lost the only protection he had. Ever since, he's been fighting a bad back, fighting the bottle, fighting his conscience. But now he's in for a special fight. Never before has he come up against anyone like Tess Binder. She's a stunningly beautiful, sexually spirited three-time divorcee from Newport Beach--capital of California's Golden Orange, where wallets are fat, bikinis are skimpy, and cosmetic surgery is one sure way to a billionaire's bank account. Nearly a year ago Tess Binder's father washed up on the beach with a bullet in his ear. The coroner called it suicide, but to Tess it means the fear of her own fate. And Winnie Farlowe is a man willing to follow wherever she leads--straight into the juicy pulp of the Golden Orange, a world where money is everything, but nothing adds up . . . where death and chicanery flourish amidst ranches, mansions, and yachting parties. In his long-awaited new novel, best-selling author Joseph Wambaugh combines harrowing suspense, scathing humor, and a moving portrait of a man on the brink of self-destruction.

"[Wambaugh's] laserlike descriptions of Orange County are worth the price of admission".-- "The New York Times Book Review"


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User Review  - christinejoseph - LibraryThing

Calif. drunk ex-cop - Winnie gets tied in a scheme w/ beautiful girl to get $ - he's tricked - good California's Gold Coast is the home of boat parades, middle-aged women in bikinis, and Winnie ... Read full review

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User Review  - BradKautz - LibraryThing

Joseph Wambaugh has written a lot of fiction around police work, something he knows well from his experience as a police officer prior to becoming a writer. I have read his first four books but not ... Read full review

Selected pages


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 21
Section 22
Section 23

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About the author (1991)

1 * The Drinker''s Hour

"Welcome to The Drinker''s Hour!"

That''s how they introduced their 3:00 A.M. show, those doom jockeys.

Still, sometimes they didn''t arrive exactly on time. Sometimes they wouldn''t perch on the foot of his bed until 3:30 or so, and once they even showed at 4:15. But more often than not, they were ready to open their act within ten minutes, either way, of 3:00 A.M. The Drinker''s Hour.

Winnie Farlowe''s twin phantoms needed about three hours, after which he could once again fall unconscious until mid-morning, thereby screwing up his entire day, making himself feel so rotten he''d start drinking a bit earlier in the afternoon to "right" himself. After which the cycle would repeat.

He had dubbed them "Fear" and "Remorse," those winged apparitions, and imagined them as turkey buzzards, black ones with hooked bony beaks, and necks like Ronald Reagan. He''d learned at an A.A. meeting (which his lawyer had forced him to attend) that lots of drinkers had horrific night visitations not connected with d.t.''s. This, after the drinkers were jolted awake by a drop in blood sugar, or by withdrawal syndrome. The tormentors could take any gruesome form: bat, snake, rodent, spider, pit bull, lawyer. Often they appeared as ex-wives or husbands, parents, children living or dead--dead ones made memorable visits--or as Memories of Youth. And, of course, as Lost Promise. Winnie''s night sweats, all that dog-paddling in the flotsam and jetsam of life, were partly brought about by his fortieth birthday. The Death of Youth.

After the wake-up call Winnie''s buzzards took turns crawling all over his besotted steaming flesh--cackling, snuffling, growling. There was no point fighting them and lights didn''t scare them. It was usually the bigger one, Remorse, that did more damage. Winnie would close his eyes and feel the stinking smothering wings pinning him, while the bloody beak dipped into his palpitating heart.

Once he''d made the mistake of describing his 3:00 A.M. horrors to the various saloon psychologists at Spoon''s Landing, his favorite waterfront gin mill. He got what he deserved.

"Winnie," a beached sea poet clucked, "you''re just another sad clown playing a nightly gig under the boozer''s big top. Under a circus canopy of putrid buzzard wings."

Spoon himself was more prosaic and even less sympathetic. "You gotta learn to ignore whiskey goblins," the saloonkeeper told Winnie. "Things that go bump in the night? That''s just the other drunk that lives upstairs."

But this night Fear was the most ravenous. Smaller but relentless, the feathered demon went straight for Winnie''s guts, tearing at viscera, rooting for the swollen slab (It must be swollen by now!) of heaving quivering liver. Remorse gripped him with iron talons but Fear ate him alive.

Winnie''s awful memories of the Yuletide evening were vague. He''d been drinking more than usual at the time, predictable during the holiday season (again according to the A.A. speaker). It was a week when Remorse was supposedly the hungriest. Winnie''s sharpest memories of that terrible evening were all sensuous, beginning with the smell of hot rum, a Christmas season specialty at Spoon''s Landing.

"You''re listing to starboard," one of the hull scrapers from Cap''n Cook''s Boatyard had warned while Winnie sat at the bar topping off his giant thermos with Spoon''s hot rum. "Maybe you shouldn''t go to work tonight."

Winnie could not remember riding his beach bike from Spoon''s Landing to the ferry. Nor had he any memory whatsoever of taking over the boat from a blond, permanently tanned summertime ferry pilot who was home for the Christmas holidays from Harvard, where he pursued an M.B.A. that would, the kid claimed, be followed by a Beemer, a condo not farther than three hundred feet from the water, and a membership in the yacht club. Winnie could not remotely remember the first several ferry crossings that he apparently navigated without a hitch. He could vaguely remember a group of youngsters singing Christmas carols on Balboa Island.

People on Orange County''s Gold Coast loved the Balboa Island ferry. The two-minute, one-thousand-foot crossing from Balboa Island to the Balboa peninsula and back was still only 20 cents for pedestrians and 55 cents for a car and driver. Residents of The Golden Orange say that the toot of the ferry whistles is as reassuring as high tide, and for tourists it''s the hottest ticket in town. There''s the panorama from the deck: the old Balboa Pavilion, the sleek Newport Center skyline on the distant hills, the channels teeming with nine thousand boats, the waterfront homes with multiple boat slips and just enough land to make you stretch a bit when you lean toward your neighbor to borrow a jar of yuppie mustard.

The Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade was probably the most festive event of the year on the Orange County Gold Coast, Newport Bay being one of the largest residential harbors in the world, and probably the wealthiest in median income. All three ferryboats were in service during the holidays, and on every crossing carried three cars and as many as fifty passengers. Many of the ferry pilots were young men who''d gotten their Coast Guard licenses after a college boating program. For them it was a temporary or part-time job, and a better way to meet girls than being a lifeguard.

Winnie Farlowe was not a typical ferry pilot, but he had been taken on temporarily upon the recommendation of his former boss, a Newport Beach police captain, who, thinking Winnie needed a break, had encouraged him to get his license to operate a passenger vessel.

The police department''s reconstruction of that evening--written by a merciless female cop--alleged that Winnie Farlowe had, in the middle of a ferry crossing, emerged from the little pilothouse clad in deck shoes, blue jeans, and a Hobie Cat sweatshirt and yelled at the astonished passengers as the ferry immediately veered to starboard: "You people are just as good as all the rich assholes in this harbor! You''re gonna be in the boat parade!"

Then, according to witnesses, the pilot reentered the pilothouse, turned hard to port, and powered into the queue of two hundred boats motoring down the channel, two hundred floating Christmas parties ablaze with twinkling colored lights, awash with festive decorations, and brimming with good cheer.

Winnie somehow remembered gazing at the Balboa Pavilion that night. He always found the old Victorian edifice nostalgic and lovely, its observation platform and cupola studded with permanent white lights. He may have been looking aft toward the pavilion when he rammed a fifty-eight-foot motor yacht, sending its giant necklace of five hundred Christmas lights whiplashing from the fly bridge and crashing to the deck in a series of pops that reminded him of an AR-15 in the boonies of Nam.

Then, again according to witnesses, there was lots of screaming and yelling when the ferry passengers panicked. And dozens of parade boats--sloops, ketches, motor yachts, runabouts, boats of every stripe--began to scatter, their skippers grabbing radio dials to summon the Harbor Patrol.

Within three minutes of the first ramming, Winnie Farlowe had donned a Santa hat he''d borrowed from a wooden mermaid at Spoon''s Landing and screamed, "You''re all my prisoners!"

It was then that a beach volleyball star aboard the ferry--a guy much bigger and fifteen years younger than Winnie--decided to impress a volley dolly cuddled next to him in his mom''s Mercedes.

He leaped from the Mercedes onto the deck, yelling, "Okay, you drunk! Outta that cabin!"
Which caused Winnie to reply, "I was gonna shoot myself. But now I think I''ll shoot you, you yuppie son of a bitch."

The reference to a gun caused police divers to drag the channel for two days before they finally concluded that there was not, and never had been, a firearm in Winnie Farlowe''s possession.

Nevertheless, the volleyballer retreated to his mom''s Mercedes, where the volley dolly screamed, "Chill out, dude! Chill out!" to Winnie Farlowe.

Her boyfriend leaped from the car once again after Winnie reemerged from the pilothouse babbling something about his ex-wife and threatening to shoot all adult female passengers, starting with the male volleyballer, whom Winnie called "the biggest pussy on this boat."

Which caused the volleyballer to abandon the blonde, the Benz and the ferry itself. He dove over the rail into the frigid, silt-clouded water of Newport Bay and swam the first thirty yards underwater to elude nonexistent gunfire before he was hauled out by two teens in a Boston Whaler.

The pirated ferry had reached the tip of Bayshores, only sixty feet from the former home of John Wayne (on offer for a quick sale at a reduced price of $6,500,000), when the renegade ferry was overtaken by two boats, filled with gun-toting sherriff''s deputies and backed by a Newport Beach Police Department chopper hovering overhead and lighting everything in the channel with blinding spotlights, including Winnie Farlowe, who was urging terrified tourists to sing "Jingle Bells."

When Winnie was released on bail the following day, and visited his lawyer, Chip Simon--who''d handled Winnie''s recent divorce--the former ferry pilot claimed to remember clearly a Grand Banks 42, lit by green and red laser lights, towing a helium-filled, thirty-foot Dopey the dwarf in a Santa beard. Except that while Winni

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