One of my characters in Widowhood of Spiders (book 2 of Symington’s adventures) is angry. So angry in fact he is in danger of breaking the unwritten code of the criminal world: twice. Not only is he in the process of killing a policeman; he is doing it in front of witnesses – not bound to him with oaths of loyalty and the likes.
His actions, and the reactions of those around him, got me thinking about the murder of coppers: reality and fiction. I found myself wondering, is the fiction accurate in its depiction? or is it … fictional?
Before we go any further, these are musings and ponderings. There is no meticulous research. I posed the question, had the luxury of an hour, and pursued it. And having the joy of yet another sleepless night, I present the results of my ponderjngs.
In the fictional world the detective tends to be in danger towards the end of the book/ programme. They have cornered the villain; an arrest is nigh. They don’t usually die. Sometimes there is a lurking, menacing dsnger -murder is attempted: but not often.
Retired coppers fare worse, if memory serves. They can die with ease. Their murderer turning out to be a long forgotten criminal with a grudge. They tend – in other words – to be a plot device.
Only two instances of murdered serving detectives initially sprang to mind, during my hour or so musings: Sherlock Holmes dying at the hands of Moriarty was the first. Chief Inspector Poole of Death in Paradise the other. Which reminded me of the third. His predecessor met a similarly gruesome end at the series launch. And lurking in the recesses of my mind, I have the distant memory of one of the Taggart team being murdered and that murder being made to look like suicide.
Anecdotal I admit. But this was a flight of whimsy: not scientific. Let me know if you can think of any others.
My very unscientific study of fiction complete, I turned to the consideration of the reality.
My research into police deaths – only for the City of London Police, I admit – makes interesting reading. There seems to be a similar pattern – though retired policemen fare better than their fictional counterparts.
According to the Police Roll of Honour, deaths prior to the murders of Bentley, Tucker and Choat (at Sidney Street in 1910) tended to be as a result of routine duties, not malice. The notable exception is Detective Sergeant Charles Thain who died on the 4 December 1857, aged 45. He was fatally shot by the prisoner he was escorting (by ship) from Hamburg.
Of the 23 deaths in the years following Sidney Street, air raids took 18 of these. Not one policeman was recorded as “murdered”.
This gave me pause. Perhaps I’m being too narrow. I have in my head – due to the scene I am writing – a premeditated act. Some officers did die in the pursuit of suspects. Is that not murder in the broader sense? Is it manslaughter? One poor chap was runover whilst directing traffic. Deliberate? Another killed while running beside a car while he talked to the driver. Murder? Accident? The roll of honour does not say.
Certainly these men died of injuries gained in the line of duty. But are they murder. For me. No.
Thus I conclude, only 4 city of London Police were murdered in 150 years. A mercifully tiny number.
Musings over, and awake in the witching hour, I return to my very angry man. I need, I realise, to work more on the reactions of those around him. I need to decide how to play out a scene where my reader – whilst horrified – understands what drives someone to such an extreme where he will do the unthinkable. In other words: this scene, and the policeman who provokes it, need work.
This year I haven’t read as many books as I would like. My excuse? Not enough time.
When I read as a child I devoured books. 1, 2, 3 a week.Agatha Christie, slushy romance, Doctor Who novelisation. Didn’t matter. All that stopped me reading was an absence of pocket money. I was a bookworm. Out and Proud.
Now? it takes forever.
A twitterer asked me what was I reading? The answer came easily enough: Europe in Winter. It’s brilliant.
They then asked what’s next? The honest answer? Buggered if I know. The book came out in November. I’m on page 99.
So, what has caused this malady? Because it’s not the book’s fault. It’s bloody brilliant!!
My commute to work has got longer. What took an hour and 10, now regularly takes an hour and a half. Whist the return journey.is up from an hour and 20 to … 2hours!!
Sheer volume of traffic is to blame. But it is leaving me too knackered to read. Unlike those halcyon days of childhood, when I could read a book all night; now I either drop off or I’m a zombie.the next day. It’s hell! I feel a traitor to myself and to my fellow bookworms. I fear being black balled from the Worshipful Company of Bookworms.
Things needed to change. FAST!
Last night I had an email from Amazon. I had 8 audible credits. Salvation.
Within ten minutes I had selected.4 Lindsey Davis Falcos and 4 Sansom Shardlakes. The Falcos are old favourites. 2 of the Shardlakes are new.
It might not be reading in a traditional sense but that’s a book every couple of days. Surely that has to be better than the current famine?
I have another credit in January. I’m taking suggestions.
We have 8 more ups to go, until school’s out for Christmas. I hate this week. 8 days of increasingly excited kids, increasingly ratty colleagues – and long dark nights and mornings of commute, as the year edges its way to the shortest day.
When we reach Monday of next week, no doubt extolled by ALT (the head and his team to you non teachers out there) – whose idea of teaching is 18 hours over the fortnight; not 37 – to keep grinding on to the bitter end; the excitement can bite me, and I can get caught up in the woohooness of it all. Until then Scrooge shall be my name – and bah humbug be my greeting of choice.
Dear Future Godchild,
I was pleased to make your acquaintance today when your Mum sent a picture of your 12 week scan. I look forward to meeting you properly later this year and getting to know you over the years.
Today, I would like to promise you several things. Firstly I would like to promise you my love. You have that unconditionally and for as long as I am on this planet with you.
I promise you that I will do my utmost to be as good a godparent to you as my Mum and Dad have been to my god-brother Anthony, his wife Kate and their son Vaughn. You see the responsibility your Mum is giving me (whether she has you christened or not) doesn’t end with you. I will remember birthdays, Christmas, Easter (and a couple of un-birthdays in between); laugh with you; wish you good luck; fight in your corner …and be a shoulder for you to cry on.
I promise you that I will do my best to help you identify and deal with injustice, intolerance and inequality. I hope I will enable you to deal with each of these thing appropriately and where possible with humour. I also hope that while I teach you the ways in which the pen is mightier than the sword, that I will also help you know that there are times when you need to stand up and be counted. That sometimes you will need to throw stones at dictators and man the barricades and say: “Not in my Name.”
Whilst I will rely on your Uncle Ollie to teach you the finer points of baking and the right way to complain to big business: know now, that I will see to it that you understand the importance of watching Doctor Who from behind the Sofa. You will affirm that Tom Baker is the greatest of all the Doctors and the Brigadier the greatest of all companions.
I hope I will give you a love of reading and history. I aim to give you a love of learning that will last you throughout your life. And I promise you that you will be able to wield a sword with the best of them and know truly why the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Above all, I will be in your corner, from the moment you breathe your first to the moment I breath my last.