We’re the Sweeney son, and we haven’t had any dinner. You’ve kept us waiting. So unless you want a kickin’ you tell us where those photographs are.
Detective Inspector Jack Regan knew how to make a point. If he were writing this he’d be telling you, “We’re British son, and we haven’t had our BAFTA. You’ve kept on stealing. So unless you want a kickin’, stop takin’ our programs.” That’s what I’d be telling you as well. Thankfully The Sweeney hasn’t been Americanized, although there was an appalling cinema remake, but you’ve taken the next best thing. So let’s start there.
“When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar.” A simple riddle that I heard the first time I think on Doctor Who. Applying the same premise to literature we could just as well ask, “When is a James Bond novel not a James Bond novel?” The answer being ever since Ian Fleming died. Except that’s not strictly true. It seems that being dead is no longer a good defence.
In Ian Fleming’s case getting resurrected happened before he was even a long time dead. Kingsley Amis (writing as Robert Markham) published Colonel Sun barely three years after the last Fleming Bond, The Man With The Golden Gun. Since then we’ve had, John Gardner, Christopher Wood, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, and Jeffery Deaver. Not to mention young Bond novels by Charlie Higson. Reinventing 007 for the movies is one thing, grave-robbing Fleming to keep the books alive is something else. There was only one Ian Fleming. In the case of the novels they should have stuck with, You Only Live Once.
It doesn’t end there. When it comes to literary Frankensteins it appears that having your parts revived without the rest of your body is commonplace. Look at Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels. He wrote three, starting with The Bourne Identity, but Bourne has returned in a further seven, reanimated by Eric Von Lustbader, who sounds like a Mary Shelley creation himself. Being dead didn’t stop Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone With The Wind getting a second outing. Virginia Andrews has apparently been writing from beyond the grave for years. And I’m not sure if James Patterson is actually dead or just working with ghostwriters for the fun of it.
Oh, and by the way I’ve just heard they’re planning on reviving Raymond Chandler’s, Philip Marlowe. Have they no shame?
The spookiest use of the long time dead however comes in TV advertising. It would appear that Hollywood stars need to write a clause in their wills or they’ll end up selling cars like Steve McQueen. Whoever said, “There’ll be plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead,” didn’t reckon with the resurrection factor. Sweet dreams.
Colin Campbell is a retired UK police officer and his Resurrection Man novels are published by Midnight Ink Books. The first, Jamaica Plain, is due out Spring 2013.
We’ve all seen this one, or read it. Detective assigned to the case visits the crime scene after forensics and photographers and search teams have conducted their examination of the location. He wanders around soaking up the atmosphere and getting his head around the evidence. Then something catches his eye. A glint or a twinkle or something out of place. He crouches down and moves some obstruction and finds the vital clue that points toward the killer/rapist/whatever. Happens all the time. Chalk one up for the good guys.
Of course in reality the scene will have been picked cleaner than a bone in a piranha tank. I know, because 15 of my 30 years in the police service were as a Scenes Of Crime Officer in West Yorkshire. SOCO. Same as CSI only with less money. And I can tell you that a murder scene gets such a focussed examination that nothing gets left unseen. Footprints. Fingerprints. Hair. Fibres. Blood, snot, and sweaty nose prints on the window. The works. None of it gets overlooked. Nothing gets left for the wandering detective to stumble across as he ponders the case.
As much as I love the Fleming books, I was introduced to the world of secret agent James Bond 007 in the movies.
The house lights dim. The screen goes dark. A line of white circles marches across the blackness, accompanied by a familiar staccato beat. One circle grows to become the rifling of a gun barrel that follows a walking man. The man turns and fires. A curtain of blood runs down the screen. The gun barrel wavers, then drifts downwards, becoming a plain white circle once again. Right there you’ve got my childhood, encapsulated in a single cut scene that never failed to raise goose bumps whenever I saw it. Ian Fleming must’ve wished he’d put it in his books, because it’s certainly the most recognisable opening ever.
“Oh honey. You got balls like an elephant and a whang like an ox.”
Words to live by if you happen to be well endowed, but more importantly an example of the superb dialogue that makes Joseph Wambaugh’s novel, The Choirboys, such a treat. That, plus the fact that it shines a light on the real police, uniformed cops who hold the frontline in the fight against crime.
Not those swaggering Detective Inspectors, or Chief Inspectors, or Superintendents, or whatever rank they happen to be given in crime fiction these days. Men in suits who sit behind a desk while proper coppers do the work. I include frontline detectives in that, since they’re the ones knocking on doors and arresting criminals while their bosses face the press or make tactical decisions, but I’m mainly talking about uniform patrol cops.
That’s the job. Shit rolls downhill. Cops live in the valley.
During my 30 years as a West Yorkshire police officer, those truisms remained steadfastly true. Crime priorities are dictated by government and passed down to Chief Constables. They are then spread like cow-shit fertiliser over the Divisional Commanders, Superintendents, Shift Inspectors and Sergeants. At the bottom of that hill, in the valley of shit, the ordinary beat cops have to make the job work in spite of governmental interference and supervisory back-covering. And they do it every day. Because, “That’s the job.” Reprise verses 2 and 3.
The point of that little rant is that shit-rolling, obviously, isn’t confined to the West Yorkshire Police. Otherwise, how could The Wire, an American TV show, have nailed it so perfectly? The Comstat meeting scenes encapsulate all that is wrong with modern policing, a desire to control target figures and statistics instead of solving crime and arresting criminals. In that, and many other respects, The Wire is the best cop show ever made.