Coppering the Cannon
Author: James Cannon.
Price £12.99 or from website for £10
Publication Date: 2004
What makes someone a good policeman? Is it all rushing around with blue lights flashing? What is it like to face violent and drunken people on a Saturday night? How would you cope with the carnage of a fatal accident, or interviewing a suspect for a robbery? How much have police methods changed over the last 30 years? With a light touch this book gives an anecdotal insight into all this and more. We meet murder, violence, terrorism, rape, industrial disputes, robbery and public order, and everything else you can think of. Mixing humour and pathos, life and death, success and failure we are taken on a fascinating journey through the eyes of a young policeman in the 1970’s.
Having served in the City of London Police, retiring in 1990 I still have a feeling of pride in the achievement. Which brings me to my first point. Why write about your time in the Police and make up a false name for the constabulary in which you were a member? He tells us he 'served in the Larkshire Constabulary for some 18 years beginning in the early 1970's'. Where Pray is Larkshire? This is where I realised for the first time that this is not the normal autobiography because it is soon apparent that the author is not to reveal to us his name, his force, where he trained, or the force he served in, which leads me to guess it was Sussex or Hampshire, but he may have laid a false trail.
He correctly says there were ‘no computers, mobile phones, or any of the modern paraphernalia of today's Police. A good number of police officers were recruited from the armed forces and had seen war service, old style coppers, with a mind-set to match’. (I myself joined after 12 years in the Royal Navy, I am not sure if they had set my mind, we ex boy seamen regard it as the best thing that happened to us.)
He recalls that "many of them still wore the old detachable collars with studs, which I just about remembered were used by my grandfather and father when I was a small boy." I actually wore those detachable collars for a number of years, in the very early 70’s, the truth is they were good because you didn’t necessarily change the shirt every day, at least if you were a single man you didn’t. Spray starch was good too.
Having joined in 1968 we would have experienced the same policing over the same years although again I am confused because having said he served for 18 years, he would have left without a pension unless he went with a sickness pension, the very last page says about leaving the service, "I was 28 years old and had six years and two month's service under my belt. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time, seen a lot and done a lot, and I just hoped that I had learned enough. I left Brightstone and prepared to go on to Downchester with apprehension and excitement about all that might lay ahead, but that's another story!" Presumably this is ‘The Story Line’ and not his story?
It was as James says in the introduction, "Police on the beat were still the norm" - in fact it still was when I left the City of London in 1990 and the Criminal Justice System still uses; as James says a law of 1361. He may be interested to know that the statute to which he refers is still in use and remains very good law - it is of course the Justice of the Peace Act 1361 by which we still bind people over to 'Keep the Peace', the Queen’s Peace is of course 'the normal state of society'. Under Common Law a charge could be, 'Contrary to Common Law, Against the Peace of Our Sovereign Lady The Queen, Her Crown and Her Dignity'. Say that and watch the prisoner’s face! As with James’ Force, mine too had Officers’ Dining Rooms, or the Officers’ Mess. However I am surprised to find myself as an Inspector referred to as part of the Officer Elite which, 'begins with Inspector and continues up to Chief Constable'. I did my initial training at Eynsham Hall near Oxford and I would like to know the following?
"I have enjoyed this book as someone who experienced many (not all) the situations of which he writes. He writes of colleagues, of the promotion game, drunks, gypsies, drunken Detective Inspectors and drunk and violent prisoners. I’m not sure which are the worst.
Much of what he tells us is true and he covers many problems that still need to be aired and never are. Recently somebody said to me, referring to a particular book “as for its content, it conjures up a picture of the author in a room with a large elephant, the presence of which, because of political correctness they feel unable to mention. That elephant is of course,!!!!!!!!”
The exclamation marks could represent many of the issues that James confronts in the book, but is there anybody out there listening any more? I do not know where James lives; he does not want us to know. However, recently when I bowled in Torquay I was talking to a man who moved there in the 50s or 60s, he said, referring to the time he moved to Devon "the wife and I call those the 'gentle years', now we cannot go out at night for yobs".
What are the Government doing, giving even longer licensing hours – they aren’t listening are they James? I hope a lot of people read this book. My belief is that it should be re-written as an autobiography in hardback and published with a nice dust jacket and photographs. In recent years the Memoir Club has published similar books by retired and/or Ex-Police Officers.
About the Author
James Cannon (not his real name) lives quietly on the south coast with his wife. He has taken early retirement because of health problems. Retirement has given him the time to write, an ambition for several years. James has two grown up children and is about to become a grandfather for the first time. When he left the police he became a Church of England Vicar until retirement. He intends to write another book about the change from policeman to vicar. James enjoys walking by the sea, reading, writing and time with the family. He takes a keen interest in current affairs, the Church and Police issues. He is a sports fan and supports Brighton and Hove Albion.
Preview (From the Book)
Around half past midnight, we knocked on the door. It would be an understatement to say that the lady of the house wasn’t pleased to see us and we were treated to a volley of abuse. We pushed past her, woke Riley, and told him we were arresting him, all the while putting up with insults and abuse from the dear lady. Riley said, ‘wild horses couldn’t drag me out of here, yet alone you two bastards.’ He turned away and went back to sleep! We tried talking to him but he ignored us.
I took hold of his head and shoulders and Tim got his feet, we lifted him up and made towards the door. Riley turned his head and sunk his teeth into my thigh. He bit down hard and painfully and would not let go. I dropped him, but he refused to let go and bit down harder. I punched him in the head to persuade him to let go. Still shouting and swearing, the woman came up behind me, grabbed the ends of my tie, pulled them either side of my neck and set about strangling me. I managed to throw her across the room, but she didn’t let go. Being a very heavy woman I was pulled off my feet, she landed on the sofa and I landed on top of her!
Just at that moment the door burst open and the rest of the family flew in. Their dog immediately attacked me, Tim struggled with Riley, and the woman’s husband and daughters attacked me, incensed, not only that we had invaded their house in the early hours, but because I had made sexual advances to their mum, evidenced by my laying on her on the sofa!
I forced the woman’s hands off my tie, trying to ignore the dog biting my ankles and the husband and daughters pummelling my back and head, and I managed to stagger to my feet. I was just in time for one of the daughters to swing a pram carriage at me, which hit me on the side of the head. There is a time to advance and a time to retreat and we knew when we were beaten, Tim and I retired in disorder, pursued by the dog and another volley of abuse and shouts of triumph!
An Adult Novel For Teenagers, A Teenage Novel For Adults.
Author: Peter Inson
Publishers: Charles Kimpton Publishers, 15 Priory Crescent, Wembley, Middlesex. HAO 2QQ Tel: 0208904-7074.
Publication Date: September 2004
Jon is 15 and life is hard. Money is tight and Jon is trapped in a hopeless, miserable existence. Then by chance, he meets someone who helps him to see things differently. Despite girls, bullies, teachers, policemen, his mother and her violent boyfriend, Jon wants to survive. Once he finds Jimmy and Paul, he begins to take control of his life. He becomes an apprentice adult.
Reviews to date
A more credible account than most of how things are in a stratum of Britain it's more comfortable to ignore. You have to admire Inson's willingness to get into this hostile world full-on. The core of the book is an ambitious and compassionate fictional case study of Jon's life at the bottom of the stack on a featureless city estate. Geoff Fox, Books for Keeps, Nov 04.
Peter Inson has constructed and modelled his own teenager: a boy who finds school and his mother's new boyfriend utterly repulsive, and steals to pay back a never-ending loan to enterprising young shark Dean and his older brother. Inson's insight into the mind of this character is greatly convincing and has been written in a style as far from patronising as possible, which makes this portrait of a dysfunctional teenager a worthwhile read. Independent on Sunday, Nov 28th 04.
The knowledge of, and insight into, the lives of problematic adolescents makes this a very thought-provoking book. Lesley Toll in The Daily Mail.
Vivid stuff! Libby Purves,
You obviously have talent: there is some really good writing. SM. Literary Agent. Some excellent themes and an effective way of examining them. JR. Literary agent. An original and ingenious idea. SG Literary agent. You write very fluently and articulately. JT. Literary agent. Very readable and realistic. LJ. Literary agent. Very well written. JJ Literary agent.
Hard to put down! I just wanted to give this tear-away teenager a motherly hug. Karen, Brittany.
You know what a teenager feels like and understand his point of view! Nick, All Saints' School. A very sympathetic portrait of a lost soul. Peter Palliser, film and tv script writer.
A moving insight into the hostile, unloving world inhabited by too many young people. I found the story quite compelling. Angela Forsyth, educational consultant.
We love your book. London Institute of Education Bookshop.
We are convinced that it will find its place on the young adult fiction shelves. Barbara Humm, OLF S.A. [Wholesalers for English language books in Switzerland.]
The start is very dramatic - it got me straight into it. It is real life. I'd recommend it. You might know people in the same position as Jon and this book could help them understand their problems. Students at Ripley St. Thomas School. Broadcast on BBC Radio Lancashire.
I have read and enjoyed "dunno" and hope to help it to be read more widely by passing it on to our two local senior schools. It deserves a wide readership. Sue Waddell. Silver Dell Bookshop, Kirkham, Lancs.
Well crafted; the language and speech patterns are realistic. For the adolescent market I think it would go well. Graham Caley, English teacher.
Head Librarian Dot Ledger has been reading it and gives it a thumbs up, adding that it moves along nicely. She'll be recommending it to readers in future. The response has been enthusiastic. Another student in the group has been up to my room to ask for a copy to read on the strength of grapevine comment. John Radford, Head of English. All Saints; School, Dagenham
The book took me from not caring what happened to a worthless loser to a better understanding of how difficult it is for some to escape from a life of poverty and hopelessness. Don Maynard.
Have a go at radio or tv, anything so that your knowledge doesn't get lost. JD. Reader.
I'm glad dunno seems to be going so well. I finished it over the summer and was truly impressed. I enjoyed the story-line and the characters. I passed it on to Dave, who also thought it was great. I don't think he could quite believe it was a first novel of someone he knew! Jenny Roe. Institut du Rosey, Switzerland.
Brilliant, recommended by my English teacher. Timothy, Barry Comprehensive School, S. Wales.