Sunday, June 19, 2016

Scotland Yard

At some point roaming about London I came across New Scotland Yard with the famous revolving sign in front of the building. This was really the new, New Scotland Yard I believe — the third location of the Metropolitan Police. I have very few true crime books in my collection but among the few is The Story of Scotland Yard by Sir Basil Thomson, a "former head of Scotland Yard's Criminal Investigation Department (C.I.D.)" The book is an inexpensive Literary Guild reprint but is in pretty good shape for its age — published in 1936, with a copyright date of 1935. It would, I think, be interesting to anyone who enjoys British crime novels involving the Yard. It begins with a description of the conditions that led to the creation of Scotland Yard and then recounts the history, including many of the criminal investigations, up until the post World War I period — when Thomson had personal involvement. From the flyleaf:
No author more suited to the task could possibly have been found than Sir Basil Thomson, himself one of the Yard's most celebrated heads.... His book, for the general reader, is an endlessly fascinating series of anecdotes about crime and criminals, great detectives and constables on the beat; about more than a hundred years of the London behind the scenes, of Limehouse and Whitechapel, of death in foggy dockside alleys, of murder and violence and the triumphing growth of the law's power; of what goes on behind the blank walls of the forbidding red brick building by the Thames. For the criminologist and student of crime it is a work of authority and reference unique in the literature of the subject.

Not least interesting are the chapters showing exactly how the Yard goes about its work, from the moment a murder is reported until the criminal stands before the bar of judgment.
Thomson's own life was not without controversy.