Joseph Aloysius Wambaugh, Jr. is a best-selling American author known for his fictional and nonfictional accounts of police work in the United States. He is a 14-year veteran of The Los Angeles Police Department. In 2004, Wambaugh was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. He was nominated for four Edgar Awards and won three of them.
"Joseph Wambaugh has been one of those necessary voices through the years — sometimes angry, sometimes illuminating, often wise, always funny and fascinating — and without him, the lives of many readers would be smaller. Including mine," says Stephen King.
Joseph Wambaugh was an only child of a policeman, born and raised in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a Roman Catholic tradition. He later moved to California with his parents. At the age of seventeen, he graduated from Chaffey High School in Ontario, California, and joined the U.S. Marine Corps for three years.
Wambaugh attended California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1960 and served 14 years, rising to detective sergeant.
His first four books and his work on the Police Story television series in the 1970s set new standards for following writers in the crime genre. The debut novel, The New Centurions, was published early in 1971 to critical acclaim and popular success while Wambaugh was still a detective.
He stayed a cop through three best-sellers but then turned to writing full-time. He mixed writing novels (The Blue Knight, The Choirboys, The Black Marble) with nonfiction accounts of crime and detection (true crime): The Onion Field (1973). His later books included The Glitter Dome (1981), The Delta Star (1983), and The Secrets of Harry Bright (1985).
The Glitter Dome, which starred James Garner, John Lithgow, and Margot Kidder, was a 1984 film for HBO.
In 2003, Fire Lover: A True Story brought Wambaugh his second Edgar Award, for Best Crime Factbook.
In the 2000s, Wambaugh also began teaching screenwriting courses as a guest lecturer for the theater department at the University of California in San Diego.
In 2006, Wambaugh returned to fiction with the publication of Hollywood Station. It was his first novel since Floaters (1996) — and his first to depict the officers and detectives of the LAPD since The Delta Star (1983). In 2008, he followed it with Hollywood Crows, a sequel featuring Hollywood Division Community Relations Officers ("Crows") that featured many of the same characters. This was followed by Hollywood Moon in 2009, Hollywood Hills in 2010, and Harbor Nocturne in 2012.
Joseph Wambaugh and his wife raised three children. They live in southern California.