A Cop's Life Summary
by Randy Sutton

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A Cop's Life

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

During almost thirty years as a police officer, and now a senior sergeant in the Las Vegas police department, Randy Sutton has experienced all of the frightening depths and rewarding heights of police work. The pressures he describes are intense and bring to mind what soldiers describe in combat: long stretches of boredom punctuated by brief bursts of terror.

Sutton, whose beat takes him from the glitz of the Vegas Strip to the gritty, rundown industrial neighborhoods which tourists never see, relates about twenty incidents he has experienced during his career. They run the gamut from the grim to the poignant: his partner's suicide, the first man he killed in the line of duty, the murder of a witness he has sworn to protect, and the gratitude of a little girl he helped to cross the street. The last and most lengthy section of the book is a fictional Christmas story.

He also frankly describes the toll his work has taken on what little personal life he has. He drinks too much, is periodically depressed, and cannot sustain relationships except those with his fellow officers, the only ones who truly understand what he is going through. His work is made more difficult because in public he must suppress his emotions, maintaining a stoicism and aura of reassurance that he often does not feel inside.

One way Sutton has been able to cope with his difficult job is by talking about it, both in person and in print. The editor of the anthology True Blue (2004), written by policemen across the United States, Sutton has lectured extensively on police work. As a man of rugged good looks, he is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and has appeared on television shows and in movies. Because of his willingness to expose himself, he has exposed many others to the true—and often hidden—face of his profession.

As far as his writing, it is most effective in the short, almost staccato sentences that mirror the often split-second urgency he is attempting to convey. But in some instances Randy Sutton's attempts to be “literary” seem ill-considered and are unsuited to the gritty stories he relates. His prose can tend toward an overly florid style that calls unwanted attention to itself, rather than the tale he is telling.

And he should probably avoid fiction in the future, because the one piece of fiction in this collection is rather trite. But given these caveats, A Cop's Life: True Stories from the Heart Behind the Badge is an often rewarding and revelatory experience.