Thursday, September 15, 2011

Crime Does Actually Pay

I’ve always been a good boy.

Law abiding. Head well beneath the parapet. Not a toe out of line.

When the UK riots were kicking off my first thoughts were not to rush out and help myself to a nice new pair of orange bri-nylon Nikes and an iPad but to bemoan the state of the nation’s youth and to wish our boys in blue the best of British as they marched out to meet the semi-illiterate foe, wot ‘ad taken to the streets, innit, to protest about the interest rates, the war in Afghaniswotsit and the fact that they couldn’t, like, afford to buy all them widescreen plasmas wot get shown on The Gadget Show every week, you get me, bruv?

I stayed at home in my pinstripe and my bowler hat and waved my sober umbrella in middle-class outraged fury at the scenes of wanton damage being shown on my non-widescreen, fat, cathode ray tube telly. I was a good boy.

And that’s the problem.

In my current novel (and, indeed, in my previous one) the main characters have run foul of the law. They’ve had their collars felt. I’ve had to write a police interview / interrogation scene.

And in all honesty I have absolutely no first-hand experience of how these are actually conducted at all. My only reference points are film and TV but just how accurate is it to depict suspects having plastic bags held over their heads and then being kicked around a dusty evidence room by a furious Gene Hunt? Do the police still do that? Or does that just happen in the armed forces now?

Do the police still do the old good cop / bad cop routine?

Or is it all touchy feely now – calling in a gestalt therapy counsellor, a PTSD specialist, a pedicurist and a Swedish masseuse?

My wife assures me that the police are people too and, actually, unlike the portrayal of the force on the telly, most interviews are conducted in a very conversational manner. When I asked her how she knows this she made a quick excuse about being late for a community service appointment and hotfooted it out of the house as if she had a bag of swag under each arm. Most curious.

So anyway, I’m now wishing I’d pulled a bank heist or two when I was younger. Misspent my youth a bit. Nicked the odd car. Gun ran. Grew drugs at the allotment. Defecated on the carpet at Fortnum & Masons.

I’m now looking back on the summer’s riots in the UK and wondering if I missed an opportunity there.

Not for the sake of getting a widescreen telly.

But for the sake of my writing.

I’m sure the judge would have understood.

Don’t you agree?



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36 comments:

vegemitevix said...

I've been 'down to the station' before for a wee bit of a chat with the coppers, but that was back in NZ. And I was a witness (in a bank robbery!)I'd be happy to share my experiences with you sometime. :-)Oh and I have a few contacts (shall we say!) that could be able to help I'll drop you a message. Vx

Steve said...

Vix: "a few contacts"? Not in the underworld, I hope!

Gorilla Bananas said...

I'm pretty sure the British police are required to record all their interrogations, so roughing people up is not longer feasible. I suggest you look for transcripts or recordings of interviews with infamous suspects on the web. What they basically do is ask the suspect to explain the evidence against them.

the fly in the web said...

Don't know about the U.K., but in France it depends on who you are.
Strauss Kahn gets called in as a 'witness' to an informal interview in a case in which he is accused of attempted rape....

Monsieur Untel gets stripped, his orifices searched and is then dumped in a cell for getting umpty with the gendarme who booked him for speeding.

Set you scene in France and I'll give you the low down...and very low it is too.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: a measured and knowing response. I was waiting for the insulting punchline.

The fly in the web: not sure the French thing would work... I'm not really writing a farce. ;-)

Modern Military Mother said...

Find a criminal and interview s/he. Call it research....

Steve said...

MMM: my neighbours will think it a bit funny if I suddenly start talking to them now after all this time...

John Gray said...

My friend (the fat faced welsh farmer) says that there are special techniques employed my coppers to trap people into saying the truth...

I think they must have had their training from my mother!

Steve said...

John: are we back to talking about tying plastic bags over people's heads again and tazering their genitalia to get a confession?

Marginalia said...

Just imagine yourself as Agatha Christie or P D James. Neither had too much contact with the fuzz. Even better dress up in long dresses and cardigans circa 1936.

That should get you in touch with your muse, and, as an added bonus, your local instability.

Being Me said...

There's no time like the present to start. You want me to send you any tools of the trade? Box of matches? Balaclava? White cotton loot bag with a big $ sign indiscreetly painted in black on the side?

TimeWarden said...

Listen, sonny, just exactly where were you on the night of the 15th? Don't give me none of that crap, I want names, dates, times. And if you don't cooperate, my sergeant here is likely to give you a good seeing to, capish?

Steve said...

Marginalia: my local instability? They're like my local constabulary, right?

Being Me: you have spares? My God, you are organized, woman! (Organized crime. Geddit?)

TimeWarden: if your sergeant is Alex Drake from Ashes To Ashes I ain't saying nuffink. Tell her to do her worst.

Nota Bene said...

To help you out, I've reported you to the police and indicated that under your kitchen floor is 2 tonnes of cocaine which you imported last week having 'taken out' the Jamaican Yardie who was planning to sell it.

I expect they'll be round soon.

Anything to help you out mate.

Steve said...

Nota Bene: the scary thing is the characters in my novel are before the police for almost precisely that - dealing in coke.

Have you got hold of an advance copy, or something?

Keith said...

The only time I've ever been in a real one I felt guilty before I had even sat down, and I was the "victim". On the whole Police interrogation rooms are boring. None of your two way mirrors and copper hysterics. Just a standard table, uncomfy chairs, the requisite tape recorder and a panic strip within reach. Time was you could chuck in a grotty ashtray but the law has taken that away.

I don't like to boast, but I spent some time in George Gently's interrogation room earlier this year ( I go all the best places don't you know ) and even being period didn't enliven the place.

Write what you know Steve, and the rest will be fine.

autumnraven said...

Actors do it all the time...it's called method acting. Go do something bad...::grins::

I got arrested once...they were really nice. Definitely wouldn't make for a good read so I'd say taking a few liberties is ok.

Actually I can give you an American perspective (and not because I was arrested) My husband is a police officer and has been for 6 years. As a small town officer he's arrested everything from dumb blonds flashing tits to get out of DWI's to assault and attempted murder suspects. No they don't rough people up, but occassionally they have a few "accidents" getting into the car...

Steve said...

Keith: George Gently? Is that really filmed in Durham?

Autumnraver: method writing? Hmm. But I was planning on writing a bodice ripper for my next novel...! ;-)

Löst Jimmy said...

Starksy and Hutch taught me all I know...Book 'im Danno er ahem Who Loves ya Baby...erm...do you feel lucky punk...oooh...put your trousers on yer nicked...evening all

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: elementary my dear Watson... oh, just one more thing... It's 1973, it's lunchtime, I'm 'avin' 'oops...

Keith said...

It is. I wasn't on it though, we had dropped in, "for tea' so to speak.

Steve said...

Keith: tea and biscuits. That's how George does it. Nice 'n' gently.

Fran said...

Yes, tricky. How do you do this kind of research? I guess the only thing, Steve, is to get arrested for something or other. Could you dismantle the bandstand, piece by piece? Or daub 'I hate Georgian architecture' on the Pump Rooms? I'm sure you'll find a way.

Steve said...

Fran: daub graffiti on the Pump Rooms?!? Oh perish the thought!

Wylye Girl said...

Steve, we do interviews under caution all the time both with and without the police working as I do for Trading Standards. It's all very boring. You get them to confirm their name,and date of birth, caution them, then ask questions, all tape recorded so no funny business. That's all for the French.

The Husband worked on the pilot of George Gently. Apart from the most recent series, it's all been filmed in Ireland.

Steve said...

Wylye Girl: good old fashioned tape recorders? No new technology? Digital voice recorders and the like?

Mark said...

Or you could volunteer to be one of those community coppers - and then later claim the novel is an insider's expose of the murky world or police interviews... might sell a few more books?

Steve said...

Mark: what? And fraternize with the hoi polloi? No bloody fear!

The Sagittarian said...

Your wide eyed and innocent look doesn't fool me for one second, sonny jim. Let's be 'avin' yer...

Steve said...

Amanda: please... not the big truncheon again, officer!

Selina Kingston said...

As a fledgling writer I'd say go for it...experience everything. I can help if you need to do anything illicit and haven't you seen on the news, judges are more lenient now than they've ever been !!!

Steve said...

Selina: well, now you mention it, I quite fancy nicking some of the pick 'n' mix from Tesco...

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

Talking of defecating, did you hear about the chap round our way who defecated on a dead hedgehog? Fined £200. His comment was, "When you've gotta go, you've gotta go!"

Steve said...

Trish: sounds like a bit of a prick to me... boom tish!

Dicky said...

Hi Steve,

I have mentioned your post over at my blog.

Steve said...

Dicky: cheers - I shall pop across and take a look-see.