A newly-published book about the Metropolitan Police has hit fourth position in the Sunday Times book rankings!
Police officers from around the country attended the London launch of Blue: A Memoir this week – a new book outlining the highs and lows of being a British Bobby.
The book by Ch Supt John Sutherland – Twitter’s @policecommander – focusses on the positive work of his Met Police colleagues during a 25-year career but also on how policing can take its toll, including its difficult to read pages on John suffering from depression.
The strapline for the book is “Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces.”
Speaking at the event, John said the idea for the book came from the imbalance of predominantly negative reporting about policing in the media.
He said: “For the past 25 years, I have had the privilege of doing a job I love – alongside people I truly admire.
“In its way, this book is a love letter to each one of them: my family, my city and the women and men of the police force.
“Blue tells some of their stories – some of our stories – and in doing so, tries to provide some balance to the wider story being told about policing in this country.
“But it is also a very personal story of the toll that life and policing can take. Four years ago, whilst serving as the Borough Commander for Southwark in South London, I broke. I’m still mending.”
The book features large chunks on John’s rise through the ranks, his time as a hostage negotiator, as a borough commander and has a real focus on the scourge of knife crime in the capital.
Both the speech and book resonated well with the audience in attendance at the launch in London – which also included a number of John’s friends and family.
Also there were the Kinsella family. Ben Kinsella was killed in a stabbing incident in Islington in 2008 – and John has remained in touch with them.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve only just found the article posted below, from the Daily Express, but it was actually published the very day before my own first UK police novel went on sale.
Having spent many years in the police myself, I wasn’t too worried that I would have committed any serious transgressions, although of course I did strive to leave out as much as possible about the tedium and long-winded nature of many police investigations, but in reality that is a necessity for a writer, not an option.
My own top-six “hates” when watching or reading a story about the British police are:
Inspector Morse, as entertaining as the programme might be, could not have kept his forename to himself. An officer’s full name has to be written on every report and every statement made, and announced publicly every time an officer gives evidence in court. So it could be no secret, even if he made every Endeavour to keep it so!
British police officers do not “read their rights” to people, they caution them and later report or charge them. Britain is not America!
Similarly, British people do not and cannot “press charges” and cannot “withdraw charges,” either. Again, Britain is not America! The police and then the Crown Prosecution Service [CPS] make all such decisions.
The portrayal in stories of uniformed officers as being less clever or less involved in major incidents is as laughable as it is offensive. Apart from there being a constant need for teamwork across many disciplines in the police, many excellent officers have no interest whatsoever in working for the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department).
Detectives share identical status to their uniformed brethren of the same rank; becoming a detective is not a promotion and certainly gives no authority over a non-detective of the same rank. Once again, this is Britain, not America.
Lastly, as it states in the article, details of cases are never, ever, discussed in front of members of the public or anyone else who does not have an adequate and legally justifiable need to know.