Some of the nicest compliments I have received for my first book in the Cumbria Police Novels series have been for the description of a circular, mid-winter fell walk, starting and finishing at the south end of Haweswater.
Richard Wallace, retired senior lecturer in classics at Keele University, in a review of My Cup Runneth Over, kindly wrote: “…One of the most attractive features of the novel is the lively and evocative scenes of Cumbria, its people, and its landscape.I particularly enjoyed a marvellous description of a winter walk over High Street. You could feel the crunch of the snow under your boots, the cold wind on your face, and the exhilaration of getting to the top and just looking at the views. I wanted to be there!…” (See more readers’ opinions)
The route, that day, went from Haweswater up past Small Water (photo 2) to the top of Nan Bield Pass. After a look over ‘the other side’, down into Kentmere (photo 3) and shortly afterwards getting an exciting shock-of-our lives from the jet, we continued up towards the top (photo 4) of the beautifully-named Mardale Ill Bell.
The photograph (number 4) of the snow, beautifully sculpted into drifts against a dry stone wall, of which only the top ‘cam’ stones are visible, was taken on Racecourse Hill (read Chapter 22 for an accurate description of how a mountain got such a name!), and I believe I was standing on the top of the trig’ point (i.e. a mapmakers’ triangulation pillar) to get the necessary high viewpoint.
Coming back down via Long Stile and Caspel Gate was interesting due to the fact that in places the snow had frozen extremely hard and in places there were large areas of sheet ice. Attempting it without crampons could potentially have proved lethal (photo 5).
In reality, this is the Horse & Farrier (1677), in my home village of Threlkeld in the Lake District National Park, but in ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ and the other Cumbria Police Novels to follow, the Drovers’ Inn at Linthwaite is based upon it.
The Salutation Inn — now sadly just known as ‘The Sally’ — which in the books is the Birch Hill Arms, is in the background on the right (with a red sign on the wall).
I took this photograph during the mid-1990s, despite the copyright date shown on the image. This was after the Farrier had been modernized as a pub but before the interior had been radically altered to create an admittedly great ‘restaurant with a bar’.
Now part of a restaurant, this is the interior of the former Magistrates Court at Keswick — the place known as Hawthwaite in Steve Shearwater’s Cumbria Police Novels — and it is still largely intact and recognisable.
The former witness box is beneath the small canopy, between the first and second windows on the left. Journalists sat behind the barrier that is nearer the camera, behind the lady in blue and red.
The magistrates — sometimes just two but usually three — sat directly behind the far barrier, up where the two distant people are, in this photo, and of course, facing this way. The Magistrates’ Clerk — the only legally trained person on the team (generally a qualified solicitor) — sat this side of that same barrier, where part of a wood and red leather seat can now be seen.
If the defendant was still under arrest and therefore coming from the cells, they would be with a police officer in the dock, seen here correctly with its brass rails still around it (behind the stacked, children’s high-seats, on the right).
Lastly, non-participating spectators would be seated where this shot was taken from, behind the nearest set of rails visible in the photograph.
I would be very curious to know how many police officers, over almost the entire 20th Century, went into this witness box and gave the oath:
“I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I will give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
[Note that there is no “so help me God” in Britain so over-enthusiastic witnesses who had seen too much American television and tried to include the phrase were reprimanded for not reading the words from the card!]
This was followed by the announcement of rank, number and name, e.g.
“Your Worships, I am Constable 8-6-8 Shearwater, currently stationed here at Hawthwaite” (or whichever other police station).
One then waited until the prosecution gave the instruction to proceed with what is correctly known as the ‘evidence in chief’.
Historical: It is thought local courts have been held in Keswick for hundreds of years. There was a Copyhold and Baronial Court in the town from medieval times. By 1847, a magistrates’ court operated on the second floor of Keswick Moot Hall on most Saturdays.
Building work commenced on Bank Street on the Keswick magistrates court and police station in 1901 and they were opened by Cumberland’s Chief Constable in 1902. They are on the site of a former workhouse that had been founded in the will of the eminent lawyer and judge Sir John Bankes, of Keswick. Born in 1589, he was eventually called to the bar, elected as an MP, and was knighted in 1631. He was appointed Attorney General and from 1640 until his death in 1644 he was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, one of the highest judicial officials in England and now the name of the restaurant that occupies these buildings. The court and police station remained in use until the year 2000. As well as being a magistrates’ court for almost 100 years, the building was also used for many thousands of inquests, including those concerning many major accidents on the A66 and mountain and lakes tragedies.
Sadly, asset-stripping by closing police stations and courts has been happening throughout Britain for many years now, and whilst it might be argued that we can get by with fewer, centralized courtrooms, there can be no denying that crime is on the increase because of fewer police officers (down by over 20,000, nationally) and similarly that road deaths are also rising because of the reduction in staffing or even the complete disbanding of each county’s Roads Policing Unit.
A good friend and former Cumbria Police colleague Peter Reece has given me a hard time and a laugh (with a bit of dialect, too), this morning, on Facebook.
“…How dare you kill off an old dog [in your novel]? You had me in tears theer, marra. I would have preferred the drunk driver to have ‘bit the dust’. I know , I know, I know why you didn’t: bloody coroner’s file, four copies of everything, and a folder thicker than yan o’ them girt big family bibles!”
Well, you have a good point, Peter, but while I have deliberately avoided writing about the true facts of any crimes and real criminals in my novel, I have leaned on some true experiences I had during my police career which cannot possibly be seen as defamatory to anybody. So — albeit sad — this incident of a Border Collie being killed by a drunk driver on a pedestrian crossing the first time the dog ever failed to wait on the kerb for its owner before starting to cross the road, really did happen. The only things I changed were the name of the owner, the breed of dog, the town where it happened and all circumstances pertaining to the car and driver involved.
The sad bits, the trip to the vets and all that: All true. The old man having previously lost all the members of his family: True, but not quite as described. My subsequent efforts to ‘con’ him into taking a young boxer that we then had in the police kennels at that time: Yes, successfully true, and even though the dog was a bit too boisterous for a man of his age and did tend to pull him along when they were out for a walk, the old chap always did have a smile on his face. In the nicest sense, I have always hoped that the dog outlived him; the man whom I renamed ‘Max’ in the book had been through far more than his life’s share of sadness.
Anybody wanting translations of the dialect words used by Peter Reece, above, please use the dialect glossary.
When my first novel — My Cup Runneth Over — was published, in November 2016, my biggest fear was what the opinions of my former police colleagues might be. I certainly knew they had the capacity to be my fiercest critics if my writing was not to their liking. To my delight and relief, that has not proved to be the case. You may read their thoughts here.
It was obvious from the outset that I couldn’t write an accurate police story without using the appropriate ‘period jargon’ and that similarly my novel couldn’t capture the fabulous aura and personality of the Cumbrian people without including dialect speech. But if these aspects might put off some readers from outside Britain, don’t worry; help is literally at hand!
Simply have your laptop, tablet or smartphone handy when you are reading and if you find any confusing words or phrases click on the tabs at the top of each page of the website, for either — unsurprisingly — ‘Police Jargon’ or ‘Dialect’, and your confusion will disappear! (And if it doesn’t, please tell me and I’ll fire the person who wrote this!!! 🙂 )
If I had trepidation when my police novel ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ was first published almost four months ago — and believe me I did — I can guarantee that at least 90 per cent of that worry was the fear about what my former police colleagues would make of it! I had no doubt whatsoever that they could potentially become my fiercest critics. It seems to be a result of the job, or perhaps a qualification for it, that police officers can be both critical by nature and never shy to voice their opinion. (Don’t tell them I said that 😀 )
We all know that novels must typically omit boring routine and thus condense action into a far shorter time span than that in which it will probably occur in reality, and also that at least some exaggeration is equally essential in order to maintain a good story. In this sense, the enjoyable Inspector Morse television series always made me laugh: Not only did Morse and Lewis deal with murders in Oxford at a rate that would have represented a national epidemic of homicides, let alone in such a relatively nice city, but those two men inevitably solved the crimes with little assistance in what would inevitably have been scenarios involving dozens and maybe sometimes hundreds of officers. And they achieved it within the duration of one or at most two television episodes, too, instead of sometimes needing months of graft. Oh, and Morse’s reluctance to reveal his first name was farcical — it would have to be used on every report and statement he ever wrote, let alone announced each time he gave evidence in court — but it made for a good story. Yet addressing that ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ by readers is part of how popular stories are written.
Anyway, just as I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the comments all people have made about my novel, so I have been stunned by the great reception it has received from those ‘dreaded’ police officers! I’m not a fan of repetition but this aspect to me is so special that here are highlights of their reviews to date (oldest first):
13 December 2016, Mr M.A. Johnston: “A brilliantly written book… The book is written, and reads, very much along the lines of the James Herriot books, and in my view is equally as well written and laid out… if you only buy one book to read this Christmas make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.”
16 December 2016, James Wilson: “I sat and read [your book] in one sitting, really enjoyed it. Rural policing as it should be. Looking forward to the next installment…”
5 January 2017, Cliff Heaney (retired sergeant): “I have just completed the last few chapters of your book My Cup Runneth Over and felt compelled to let you know how much I enjoyed reading it. As a retired police officer myself from that era it felt like I had been transported back in time. It was as if I was stood there beside you at some of the incidents and events you describe.
The highs and lows of policing do leave their mark on the people you deal with and the individual officers themselves. To my mind you have done an excellent job telling the stories the way you have, that in turn create the memories that an old copper like me can relate too. Thank you for that and good luck with the book. I’ll be on the look out for your next one!“
5 January 2017, John Forrester: “I’m enjoying every word.” – and, (in response to the above from Cliff Heaney) –“I echo the same sentiment, as a retired sergeant [myself]. I’m also on the last couple of chapters and can relate to the incidents etc. A riveting read.”
7 January 2017, John Thorburn: “I thought it was brill’, a little rumour, a little true life and lots of fun as we had in those days…”
24 January 2017, Dick Base: “Good read, My Cup Runneth Over… It has certainly made me reminisce.”
Alan Gardner: “I have just finished reading your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have for some time been writing a few stories that jumped to mind about my own time in the police. mainly for my grandchildren to read… Have to say however, that I’m not in the same writing league as you…”
Peter Lilley: “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book. My father, Jack Lilley, was inspector at Keswick from 1959 until his death in 1967, during which time we lived at the police station. Your stories brought many happy memories of accompanying my father on his frequent visits to outlying farms and his regular weekly ‘points’ with the village bobbies. It was great fun trying to identify the locations used in your yarns! Dad was also a member of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team – all your tales of the goings on and local events rang so true! When’s the next book due out? Can’t wait!”
26 January 2017, David Mayer [USA]: “Very good book and easy to read.I would recommend this to anyone, it’s a good insight to the policing in a rural place in the Lake District, very funny with some of the stories. Well done Steve.”
11 February 2017, Keith Meadley: “…Very good, keep it up with the next one.”
13 February 2017, David Drinkald: “As a retired Police Officer… I found this an enjoyable read. As in any fictional account of Police activity events are exaggerated, however there is nothing here that couldn’t have happened, probably not involving just the leading character however… I hope the author gets round to writing a follow up. I started reading one of the novels that led to the Heartbeat T.V. series years ago. My Cup Runneth Over is much better…”
23 February 2017, Tony Cleasby: “I enjoyed your novel ‘My Cup Runneth Over’. Any more books in the pipeline?”
1 March 2017, David Albert: “I enjoyed every page. Recognised myself a few times, ha ha.“
8 March 2017, Andy Soper: “…Picture the scene… it’s a late night flight and my seat is in the middle of a Boeing 737! It’s dark, it’s quiet and I get to the chapter in the book dealing with the unfortunate Wodger Wankin! [For my laughing out loud,] I certainly received a couple of very good ‘thwacks’ from the missus sitting next to me! As a retired Cumbria Constable and a Rural Officer to boot, this book brought it all flooding back! … This is a very, very enjoyable read and I look forward to the next one.”
14 March 2017, Mark Jenkins: “Just read the book on holiday on Kindle. A cracking read.”
28 March 2017, Martin Buckmaster: “I’ve just finished your wonderful book. I enjoyed every page as it brought back lots of memories from years ago when I lived at Fieldhead near Hawkshead… The book is amazing, thank you so much for writing it. Will there be any more? I do hope so, you’re a fantastic author.”
29 Mar. 2017, also Martin Buckmaster: A beautiful book very well writtenThis book is truly amazing in its accuracy and descriptions. I loved every page as I found that it brought back an awful lot of memories from the early days of my own Police service in the mid sixtees. I admit struggling with some of the place names having lived and worked for many years in the southern Lake District and I still haven’t got there yet. A lovely, gentle story line that held me totally in it’s grip for the entire book, I sincerely hope that we will see some more books as good as this one is. I highly recommend this book to everyone, thank you Steve.
2 April 2017, Heather Wilkinson “Dad [former Chief Superintendent Eric Greenslade] said that your book took him back to the old days, he loved it.“
28 June 2017, Roger Salmon “Just finished your book ‘My cup runneth over’. Thoroughly enjoyed it and brought back memories of my cadetship and early years. When is the next book out please?”
The Facebook page ‘Cumbria Police Novels’ (which is the ‘tag line’ at the top of each page and blog post on this website) now has both the paperback and Kindle versions of ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ on sale through Amazon UK. British readers click here.
As of 12 February I have been lucky enough to get 40 reader reviews on the amazon.co.uk website (at least ten more needed, please*) and eight on amazon.com website (at least 42 more needed, please!*).
Each reader making one of those reviews can award up to five stars for the book and for the 40 reviews on the UK site I lost just three stars from the possible total of 200 – an astonishing and delightful score of 98.5%.
The dot-com (USA and global) website so far has only eight reviews, something that researchers would call a small ‘sample size’, so it is nowhere near as reliable regarding the quality and enjoyability of my novel, but even so, to date I haven’t lost any stars at all there so I’m running at 100% for now.
Thanks to ALL of you have taken the time to write any review or opinion of my book, but may I ask that for those of you who have not yet done so on any of the Amazon websites, it would help me tremendously if you could copy and paste you remarks that have been posted here on the steveshearwater.co.uk website and put them on the relevant Amazon site please. Likewise for anybody who has not posted one at all, please consider doing a review for me on the relevant Amazon website. You do not need to have bought the book from Amazon in order to do this. Just go to the site, search for Steve Shearwater (in the ‘books’ section if you are given that option) and when you find the book you should get the opportunity to ‘write a review’.
If you can do this it will help me tremendously with promoting the book – a financially and embarrassingly necessary activity for authors in this day and age – because when I reach 50 reviews on each of the two above sites (see the asterisks * in the first paragraph) Amazon will actually start promoting the book on those websites, something that is vital for my success if I’m going to carry on and write the full ‘Cumbria Police Novels’ series. Thank you in anticipation.
I’m asking a big favour from anyone who likes my first novel, ‘My Cup Runneth Over’, please (even if you have already sent complimentary remarks directly to me or via Facebook).
Whether or not you have previously commented on the book – for which your collective kindness in what you have all written has been unbelievable – the most important and valuable comments for me are those that are posted on either the amazon.co.uk or the amazon.com websites where, in both cases, it is best to search for ‘Steve Shearwater’ (in the ‘books’ category if at the dot-com site) rather than for the name of the book, because there are several books with the same title. Of course, some of you already have commented on Amazon, for which I’m very grateful, and so you are exempt from this request!
When I can get enough positive reviews on each of those Amazon websites, and **I need at least 50 on each,** algorithms are triggered which would mean that the Amazon sites would then actually promote and advertise my book to other readers; something that is vital to me if I’m going to make this venture financially viable so that I can keep writing the other novels in the series.
You do NOT need to have bought your book direct from Amazon in order for you to make a comment there, it can be a book that was purchased at a bookshop or directly from myself. All they would then want is confirmation of who you are (so that one person can’t submit multiple comments).
It does NOT need to be anything lengthy; a simple “I liked the book” (or whatever) would suffice, although more detail is great, too.
For those of you who have already kindly sent me comments that are not yet on Amazon but are on the Readers’ Comments page on my website, do please see if you can find time to copy your original comment from there, edited if necessary, and paste it on the relevant Amazon page. My comments page is here.
Many thanks in anticipation. This would really help me move forward with the planned series of novels.
This month (February 2017) Cumbria magazine has published a much-shortened chapter from my novel – ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ – and next month they are kindly adding a review of the whole book.
Clearly, a book about being a young police officer stationed at a town in the stunningly beautiful Lake District National Park in the north-west corner of England has interest for British folks who know the Lake District but it has also been written to appeal to people from other countries, too – particularly those of you from the USA, where I have lived for over ten years.
Is this another example of the so-called, cultural ‘British Invasion’ in the USA? I’d like to think so but as this is my first novel it would be silly of me to actually believe that. I have, however, had the delightful good fortune to have had the style and humour of my novel repeatedly compared to the wonderful books by the famous veterinary surgeon James Herriot.
Remembering as well that even today the vast majority of British police officers do not carry lethal weapons, the novel offers a great insight into how such unarmed officers can operate in general safety and it also gives a great insight into rural life in England’s second-largest and most scenic county – home of the famed ‘Lakes Poets’ such as William Wordsworth.
Dialect and police jargon are included in the writing but they are carefully explained in glossaries on the website – see the link below – so nobody need struggle to understand these fascinating cultural aspects. (The Lakeland dialect, for example, is strongly based upon Old Norse, from Viking times.)
And then, of course, there’s the crime aspect! Naturally, none of the crimes or criminals in the book are actual events or real people, but each has been developed from my own lengthy experience in the police and the events are therefore very true-to-life and accurate in terms of police procedure back in the 1970s where the story is set.