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.
A gentleman’s gentleman:
Is up before his master, and goes to bed after him; even when told “not to wait up”.
Is fastidiously neat and tidy in his appearance and habits. He ensures his employer is immaculately turned out – at all times. Even if His Lordship desires to look like a sack of potatoes. He must be a sack of potatoes Fortnum and Masons would stock.
Never gets involved in an argument – however tempting. A raise eyebrow, a stare, even a cough should be sufficient communication when His Lordship oversteps the mark.
Is the soul of discretion. He never comments on any aspect of His Lordship’s personal life; even if the latest fancy piece is a lying, manipulative tart out to break hearts. It is not a gentleman’s gentlemn’s place to say: “I told you so.” Even if he is dying to stick his oar in.
To learn more about William Sampson and his Lordship click here
“Tell us about Byrd,” my publisher said. Only having the one publisher I have often wondered whether they all talk in the third person, or this is something peculiar to mine. “And be snappy about it.” I was touting him an idea for a new detective on the block, and knew, by that tone of voice, I only had a few minutes. I took a deep breath and began…
- His parents died while he was a young child and he was brought up by his Grandfather, a welsh duke.
- He speaks eight languages – including hindi and arabic.
- He was bullied in school and became the school clown in order to survive
- He served in the Derbyshire Regiment in India, saw action in Sikkim; and left the army as a major.
- Something happened in Sikkim. Something life changing. He doesn’t talk about it. Ever.
- He has an eye for a pretty woman – or three. Or four.
- He lives in an appartment in Mayfair, presided over by Sampson with regimental precision.
- His best friend is the Prince of Wales. Rumour has it Byrd saved the Prince’s life. Rumour lied.
- His staff – valet (Sampson), driver (Watkins), and cook (Imran)- were under his command in India. They are very loyal and would do anything for him. Don’t ask them about Sikkim, they won’t tell you.
- He holds degrees in medicine and law, which he took on return from India.
Want to know more? Go to Amazon and buy his first adventure
I received the first review of A Cowardice of Crows last night. From my 96 year old Great Aunt. She’s a wise old bird, a bluff northerner, who doesn’t pull any punches and tells it like it is. And this is what she said:
“I didn’t read the book as quickly as I thought I would. Got on well and enjoyed the build up and queries about the murder of Millie, had all the names and who they were in my mind, then new characters and names were introduced and my 96 year old brain wasn’t retaining them and had to keep going back to refresh.
However, the story made compulsive reading due to the intensity and colourful characters.
An extremely well written book, how you managed to keep the people where they should be I cannot think, but having done so gave me the enjoyment of reading it.”
I think she liked it 🙂
here it is…the cover reveal for A Cowardice of Crows.
Millicent Jones committed suicide… until a House of Commons cufflink is found wedged in her throat.
Given Queen Victoria is dying, the last thing anyone needs is political scandal, which means there’s only one man for the job: Symington, Lord Byrd; playboy and gentleman detective.
But someone far cleverer is one step ahead, and she has personal reasons for wanting Millie’s killer caught.
With suspects galore and no obvious solution Byrd and his cousin, Chief Inspector Sir Charles Carter, find themselves drawn into the criminal world of the Pawnbroker and his Apprentice: a world so seductive that Byrd is in danger of losing his soul.
Putting your manuscript in the hands of a third party is always a bit of a Rubicon moment.
And its return always has me quoting Nitsche, like some mantra against the dark, as I read the editor’s comments.
A month ago, I got the first pass back of Symington Byrd’s first novel.
And between work and sleep, I picked up.my baby and made the changes needed to ensure A Cowardice of Crows emerged like Steve Austin:better,stronger, pacier than.before.
Last night, following a last minute frenzy, which reminded me of my student days, i sent the manuscript back to the editor. 2000 words lighter and a page longer. Don’t ask. I don’t know.
And now I wait.
Is it better than before? Indubitably. You don’t have an editor and ignore them. Is it the best I can do? At the moment -yes. I.am still learning this writing craft.
Will you, dear reader, like it?
I hope so. It’s a very different book to Aldwych Strand. The characters darker, more complex. The themes darker still.
Of course: only time will tell. But I have an inkling about Symington Byrd.