Monday, 21 January 2013

A comparison. Ripper Street v ' The Borough Boys '

We are now four episodes into Ripper Street, and it is nice to see how Police are being portrayed as of circa1889, some forty years after my first novel 'The Borough Boys' is set.

In 1889, significant development had been made in terms of the role and responsibilities of Police Officers. 

  • Laws were being created that targeted the most common, persistent or repugnant of crimes.
  • There was a defined rank structure and chains of command, and an established Detective career path was evolving in some forces.
  • Officers were becoming more well equipped, with better uniform, handcuffs, whistles, the first 'Black Mariahs' were available.
  • In some force areas proper mortuary facilities were created for the Police, and dedicated Police Surgeons conducted structured post-mortem examinations and had bodies and crime scenes photographed.
  • Galton's use of fingerprint identification was now being utilized and recognised as both a proof and at the same time a safeguard.
  • The population was starting to understand that the Police were here to stay, and law and order was becoming an established pillar of society.
  • Courts and legal processes have become more streamlined and professional.

Ripper Street is starting to portray that evolution, and really does suggest the early shoots of a modern criminal investigation service. 

In my novel - 'The Borough Boys'  -  so far they have not had much, if any, of that change facilitated for them.

My central characters, Beddows and Shepherd, would be amongst the Police Officers who will shape the Police of 1889.

They have very basic uniform and equipment. Why? Because to many they are still glorified 'nightwatchmen', updated guardians of people and premises, shaking doorhandles, and trying windows, and watching out for fire and health problems.

They have to learn from scratch, and create the tools they need, and influence the Magistrates, Recorders and Judges that laws need to be put in place to deal with a new, Industrial and Commercial society, transient and rapidly expansive.

Initiative, imagination and innovation are the three key skills and abilities that my characters will have to demonstrate, together with a physical and mental toughness to turn around a drunken and lawless community.

Leicester in 1850 is a bit like Dodge City or Tombstone, and 'the Borough Boys' their Sheriffs and Deputies. It needs tough good guys to put down the bad guys - tougher than Reid, Drake and Jackson!

They do not have whistles, helmets, 'Black Mariahs', science or technology,  so have to beg, borrow and coerce the community to work with them.

In many respects I believe that this makes them special characters, and gives me so much more room to grow them, as it will be their sons and grandsons who will be the lucky officers of 1889 Leicester!

I think they will make for interesting reading.

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