Friday, February 23, 2018

GREEN SUN by Kent Anderson

     At thirty-eight years old, Hanson finds himself the oldest cadet in the Oakland, California, Police Academy. He was a police officer in Portland for four years—a good one, he thought—before quitting to try teaching at a college in Idaho. That didn’t work out, so he went to Oakland, hired sight unseen by a Lieutenant who had departed the agency before Hanson even arrived, leaving him at the mercy of a department that opposed his hiring and would do what he could to rid the Oakland PD of the old recruit. But Hanson is not a quitter.

     Green Sun is the third novel by KentAnderson about Hanson following Sympathy for the Devil and Night Dogs. It starts at the end of his teaching career in Idaho and follows him through the Oakland Police Academy and about a year as a patrol officer. Despite his antipathy for police work and the people he works with, he takes the job seriously and does his best to do it fairly, usually avoid violence, and get through his eighteen months to earn his Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Certificate, so he can move on to another department.

 “A place where…he’d be the law, an armed social worker enforcing the social contract of that particular jurisdiction. Where justice would be more important that the California Penal Code…and hell, do it without a gun…He didn’t need a gun, only morons needed a gun.”

Hanson struggles every day with his job: the quotas, violence, and ulterior motives of his peers and supervisors.

“But he was an asshole, he thought. Didn’t matter, just another asshole cop. Pretty soon he’d fit right in, one of the guys finally. If he’d start arresting everybody he could, pile up citations and kiss enough ass, he might make sergeant someday, or get on a special drug squad with the special assholes.”

     Hanson doesn’t want to be the asshole he thought was becoming but was not perfect. He makes arrests to keep the brass off his back, nearly succumbs to seduction, uses force, befriends a drug dealer, and is no stranger to drugs and alcohol abuse himself. He sometimes feels as if he’s already dead, and therefore does not fear death, knowing it’s inevitable, even while finding peace with a woman and hope in a young man he befriends in his neighborhood.

     Green Sun has an abstract feel to it, Hanson being disconnected from much of the world and himself, in a state between life and death. Some chapters read like short stories, establishing Hanson as a character and police officer, giving the reader a look at policing in the 1980s, but not otherwise moving the plot forward. In some ways, those are the chapters I enjoyed the most and found most relatable.

     Green Sun offers a vivid look into the failures of policing of the 1980s through the eyes of an imperfect but hopeful character. Set solidly in the era of the establishment of professional policing--“…standardize cops, crank them out and deploy them as interchangeable cop units.” --that measured the successes in numbers of arrests and other data while minimizing the value of community policing while solidifying what became the drug war as we know it. The remnants of both of those arguably failed approaches are still being combatted today.

Anderson, Kent. Green SunMulholland Books, February 27, 2018. 
ISBN 9780316466820

A copy of Green Sun was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via No compensation was provided for this review. 

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