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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 2 November 2019

"Not for the faint-hearted" by John Stevens

This is the autobiography of the Head of Scotland Yard, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police between 2000 to 2005. He started as an PC in London in the days of whistles and truncheons and progressed through detective work to become Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, Chief Constable of Northumbria, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, and author of three reports on the policing of Northern Ireland. So he has had a very successful career.

I can't imagine liking him as a man. He glories in the fact that he often worked sixteen to eighteen hour days so his poor wife Cynthia (and three children) can hardly have seen him (especially since, in pursuit of his career, he often took postings far from their family home). Furthermore, he seems to have been a person whose every decision was correct. Nowhere does he suggest that he could have done something better or that he made a mistake; he always excuses himself. I can find no evidence of empathy with those on the wrong side of the law; he appears intractably inflexible in his attitude towards policing. This spills over into his attitude towards public order; he asserts that people have the right to protest but he kettled protestors for seven hours in Oxford Circus; when the court acquits someone he always seems to regard it as a wrong decision (except when he himself was on trial over alleged Health and Saftery offences). This is a man who, in his own eyes, is always right. I am a little frightened of men like that.

"Before the pay rises introduced by the Royal Commission of 1960, [police] officers had been going to work at the end of the week with sandwiches that had no fillings." (C 4)
"There was a party in the office every Friday night ... nobody liked eating on an empty stomach." (C 10)

The problem with memoirs is that they have no plot.

Another autobiography of a law enforcer is Forty Years Catching Smugglers by Malcolm Nelson.

October 2019; 323 pages

Other memoirs reviewed in this blog include (in order of how much I enjoyed them, favourites first):
  • Memoir of the Bobotes: by Joyce Cary: a brilliantly written memoir of the author's time as a medical officer during the Balkan Wars (pre World War I): the writer became a novelist and his craft shows; full of humour and keen observation
  • My Family and Other Animals (and the sequels) by Gerald Durrell: Beautiful descriptions and hilarious accounts of an eccentric family living on the Greek Island of Corfu between WWI and WWII
  • A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble: a well-written, frequently humourous account of Pacific paradise
  • Bus Stop Symi by William Travis: the account of three years spent on the remote and at the time unspoilt Greek island of Symi: well-written, charming and amusing
  • Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis: an account of the famous author's life, mostly from the perspective of his Christianity: beautifully written
  • A Death in the Family by Karl-Ove Knausgard: the first volume of a series in which the author, in the guise of writing novels, portrays real people with real names: the writing is brilliant
  • Beautiful People by Simon Doonan: The story of a young gay man: well-written with moments of marvellous humour
  • Teacher Man by Frank McCourt: the third volume in the series that started with Angela's Ashes
  • The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice by Polly Coles: a reasonably well-written account of a year spent living in Venice
  • A Detail on the Burma Front by Winifred Beaumont: a nurse's story from one of the theatres of World War II: more compassion and humour: reasonably well-written
  • Whatever Happened to Margo: Margaret Durrell's account of running a boarding house in Bournemouth: sometimes muddled but often funny
  • Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two by Maggie Smith-Bendell: an interesting and reasonably well-written account of a Romani Gypsy childhood
  • Not for the faint-hearted by John Stevens: the autobiography of a senior police officer; probably best for those most interested in this sort of story
  • Forty Years Catching Smugglers by Malcolm Nelson: the memoirs of a senior customs officer; probably best for those most interested in this sort of story

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