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Good Books to Read!


London's Gangs at War by Dick Kirby

Another excellent book in the impressive list of titles by Dick Kirby, this book outlines the activities of gangs in and around London from around the time of the Second World War until the conviction of the Kray brothers.   The mixture of research and previously unpublished  testimony from those who played their parts in events, gives a proper counterbalance to the self-serving biographies of villains and the distorted folk hero status given by some of the media to these violent, manipulative, vain bullies who nearly got away with their attempts to put themselves above the law.   We owe an enormous debt to those who worked with Gerald McArthur, Bert Wickstead and 'Nipper' Read to remove these menaces from society.

Pen & Sword paperback 217 pages  £12.99 and Amazon                   ISBN 9781473894761


Scotland Yard's History of Crime in 100 Objects by Alan Moss and Keith Skinner

This is our latest book, and it tells the stories behind many famous investigations conducted by Scotland Yard, using images of objects in the Crime Museum.   The Crime Museum has always been closed to the general public but this book shows exhibits from many famous cases, including Dr Crippen's pyjamas, the cashbox where a thumb print convicted the Stratton brothers of the first British murder case relying on fingerprint evidence, a Victorian dynamite bomb, a doctored roulette wheel, and the Millennium diamond that was the subject of an armed robbery at the O2 arena foiled by the Flying Squad.   There is an EFIT picture of Andrejez Kunowski convicted of rape in 2003, along with the first Identikit pictures used in Britain in 1961 and a witness album picture of Michael Ostrog named as a possible 'Jack the Ripper' suspect by Melville MacNaghten in 1894.   The pencilled notes about Jack the Ripper in Detective Chief Inspector Donald Swanson's book are also pictured.   The briefcase with a hypodermic syringe that featured in the Kray brothers trial, and the torture machine used by the Richardson gang are also featured.

You can see an extract from the website of the History Press    The publication date is 7 October 2015, that fits in nicely with the Crime Museum Uncovered exhibition at the Museum of London.

Amazon £17.00    


Laid Bare - The Nude Murders and the Hunt for 'Jack the Stripper' by Dick Kirby.

This, I believe, is the best of Dick Kirby's books to date.   The series of murders that started near Duke's Meadows and the Heron Trading Estate in 1964-65 were a classic murder series, but, like the Whitechapel Murders 76 years earlier, were unsolved.   Despite the advances of forensic science, the police also had to cope with a culprit who disposed of his victims' bodies in a far more calculated way than 'Jack the Ripper'.   The author has used his contacts to include stories from officers on the original investigative team, and this puts it into a different league from most other books of this type.

History Press   £16.99   ISBN 978-0-7509-6625-2


The Wrong Man - The Shooting of Steven Waldorf and the Hunt for David Martin by Dick Kirby

This paper back book gives a thoroughly-researched account of the contentious incident in 1983 when police officers shot and wounded Steven Waldorf in mistake for David Martin.   Waldorf was an innocent man who had the misfortune to look like David Martin and was in a car with one of Martin's associates.  The story recounts the criminal misdeeds of Martin, whose accomplishments included a photographic memory for key details, the ability to circumvent locks and security systems, an ice cool nerve when challenged, an ability to work alone, and violence towards police officers against whom he used stolen guns.  So the book, written in Dick Kirby's fast-paced raconteur style, shows how armed operations can go wrong, and gives all sides of the story in a valuable account of a milestone case that we should all reflect on when reaching any kind of opinion about police officers using firearms.

History Press   £9.99


The Secret World of Victorian Lodging Houses by Joseph O'Neill

This is an interesting and welcome book that sheds light on the world of lodging in Victorian Britain.   Readers of true crime will be aware of the common lodging houses of Whitechapel where the 'unfortunates' lived, but this book covers a much wider range of the places where characters found lodgings.    Travelling street entertainers, seasonal harvesters, navvies and many more found themselves passing through lodging houses, which could be found throughout the country in those days.   This book does open the door of insight into conditions of those days, and gives us the opportunity to reflect on the accommodation given to the underclass then and now.   They were always places of interest to the police, and the occupants of common lodging houses found themselves frequently sleeping also in police cells even as late as the early 1970s in London.

Pen and Sword   £19.99 and Amazon


 Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes – The Casebook of Fred Wensley, Victorian Crime Buster by Dick Kirby.   

This is a welcome biography of a distinguished detective whom many would argue to be one of the best detectives of all time, hence the reference to Sherlock Holmes in the title.   His service started in 1888, just before the Whitechapel Murders and Jack the Ripper, when the public reputation of the CID was low.   He retired as the Chief Constable (CID) amidst great public acclaim having made an enormous contribution to the golden years of classic murder cases, to the formation of the Flying Squad, and to the development of Scotland Yard’s international reputation. 

The book deals with a great many cases in which Wensley was involved.   It is a good reminder of how physically tough the job was on the streets of London in those days.   One supervisor greeted a newly-arrived officer  with the then crucial question ‘Can you fight?’     The cases illustrate life in the East End and Wensley’s efforts to join the CID and to gain promotion:   at times his struggles were with his Detective Inspectors as well as the thieves.   His original transfer to the East End may well have been a punishment transfer:  a reminder of how many distinguished careers have survived disaster.    Melville MacNaghten acted as his patron at times and it is interesting to speculate how much of MacNaghten’s example rubbed off on to Wensley’s own legacy of leadership commitment and energy that his successors would have been hard put to match.

This is a particularly well-researched book in Dick Kirby’s inimitable style, with a great set of photographs, and is thoroughly recommended.

Pen and Sword   Full price £25.00  and Amazon (Kindle and hardcover)

For Exemplary Bravery - Nick Metcalfe

This is the result of an enormous amount of research into holders of the Queen's Gallantry Medal and their stories.

Available through Amazon

Discovering More Behind the Blue Lamp - Peter Kennison, David Swinden & Alan Moss

This third book in the Behind the Blue Lamp series completes the history of Metropolitan Police stations.   It follows the format of the earlier books, arranged by London boroughs.   This one is a bumper volume (529 pages) with 431 images covering central London.   Westminster is featured (including Scotland Yard, Bow Street, Vine Street, West End Central), Kensington & Chelsea, and then the boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston-on-Thames, and Richmond-upon-Thames & Elmbridge.   There is also a chapter Badges of Office, Top Hats, Helmets, Plates and uniform of the Metropolitan Police 1829 - 2013.  This book is not just a comprehensive gazetteer about police buildings; it includes details about police training, the characters who served at various stations and many other insights into the historical development of the Metropolitan Police.

ISBN 978-0-9546534-5-3  Printed by Coppermill Press  £21 plus £2.60 postage costs.   Available by contacting us by email     Payment can be made by paypal if desired.

The Victorian Detective - Alan Moss & Keith Skinner

This is our latest offering - 56 pages dealing with Bow Street, Nicholas Pearce and the first Detective Branch, Jonathan Whicher, Prince of Detectives, operations against terrorists in Victorian times, leading up to the introduction of fingerprints.   The books in this series from Shire Library are very well illustrated Stewart Evans has done us proud and we are very pleased with the result.   Its publication date is September 2013.   It costs £6.99 and is available direct from Shire for £6.99  ISBN 978-0-74781-283-8


Death on the Beat - Dick Kirby

This is another excellent book by the redoubtable Dick Kirby who tells the stories, in a compelling way, of infamous incidents that resulted in the deaths of police officers, going about their normal course of duty, and suddenly finding themselves caught up in dramatic and violent events that have defined the risks of police work over the years.   As ever, they are well researched, and give the perspective of other officers, bereaved relatives and the investigations that caught those responsible.   Nobody reading this book can fail to be sobered and impressed by the courage and humanity of the men and women working to keep our streets safe for us.  The many cases include that of Yvonne Fletcher, whose colleague John Murray, campaigns tirelessly for justice for her.   Te book is dedicated partly to the late detective Constable Ray Wood OBE "who looked death and danger in the face, not once, but many times" with the caution to us all "Remember those who fell; there but for the grace of God, goes every single one of you".    Foreword by Michael Winner who has contributed so much to the Police Memorial Trust. 

Pen and Sword  206 pages hardback  £19.99   or through Amazon

More Behind the Blue Lamp - Policing South and South-East London, by David Swinden, Peter Kennison and Alan Moss, is a continuation of their earlier book and it now features the police stations for South and SE London.   Each London Borough is taken in turn, and pictures of the earliest police stations are shown, together with how the buildings have developed to the present day.   It is not only for the architecture that this book is interesting.   It also gives a comprehensive illustrations of the development of police uniforms, the story of the Metropolitan Police in Royal Navy dockyards and some wonderful pictures amongst the 300 images in 363 pages.

For more details, click here

Printed by Coppermill Press, this book is now available at a cost of £19.99 (plus £2.50 UK p & p). To obtain a copy contact us, where you may also pay by paypal, or by Amazon.


The Rise and Fall of the Police Box by John Bunker

This book is a unique history of the police box, sometimes known as the Tardis by Doctor Who fans.   It is not just London versions, but the whole history of their use in places such as America, Scotland and Liverpool, written by a retired Superintendent who is known as an expert on the history of police communications.   Paperback, 160 pages and 127 illustrations.   ISBN 978-1-85858-465-2   £9.95 from   Brewin Books


The Brave Blue Line - 100 years of Metropolitan Police Gallantry - by Dick Kirby.    In our opinion, this is simply the best book about police gallantry ever written, and arguably the best book of any sort about gallantry awards.   The stories of each incident are of course gripping tales in themselves, but Dick Kirby has researched and recounted the events not just from the citations, but also from the background that led to the events, the connections between criminal gangs that linked some stories, and the previously unpublished details of incidents that result in the readers finding themselves transported into the grip of the maelstrom.   The reader will never forget the details of the intervention of a dog handler trying to rescue a female officer on decoy duty being attacked, nor the comment of our Queen when presenting one officer with the George Cross.   The baby rescued from a rooftop has been interviewed many years later as an adult, and gives his own perspective of having been the centre of a dramatic rescue.  This book is a welcome tribute to those many officers who have shown exemplary courage in their efforts to protect London's public, and the author has performed a great service to the public in ensuring that these stories can be read by the public.   It comes with our highest possible recommendation.   Pen & Sword.  193 pages and index  ISBN 9 781848 846524   £19.99     Amazon  
The Chieftain - Victorian True crime through the eyes of a Scotland Yard Detective by Chris Payne.   This is an account of the life of Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke who was one of the early detectives, rising to be a senior detective at Scotland Yard in a period which saw the rise of Irish terrorism, baby farming cases, and Clarke's involvement in several high profile murder cases.  Known as 'The Chieftain', his career ended with retirement after being involved, and acquitted in The Trial of the Detectives, a betting and corruption scandal in 1877.   His career therefore spans a really interesting period of Metropolitan Police history.   This is an extraordinarily thoroughly researched book.   Not only does it contain biographical details of the author's ancestor, it deals with the cases that he investigated in detail, and a wonderful background of what was happening in the London policing scene of the time.    More details from the author's website .   Published by the History Press.   £14.99 paperback


The Ulster Tales - A Tribute to those who served 1969 - 2000 is a collection of the stories of ten people who went to Northern Ireland and did their impressive best to fulfil their various roles for the greater good of the province amidst traumatic and dispiriting community conflict, violence and terrorism, when the origins of individuals were often seen as symbolic disqualifications for taking their good intentions at face value.  The stories clearly originate from the people themselves and how they found the experience  of venturing into what could be a cauldron of conflict, and have been summarised by John Wilsey, a former military senior officer.   A journalist, industrialist, undercover soldier, police officer, general, intelligence officer, a widow and politician are included in these tales, which make a fitting record of the courage, commitment and dedication of many fine people who dedicated many years of their lives for the common good, and represent those who should be recognised by history despite the realities of politics having left them largely unthanked.  £19.99

ISBN 9 781848 845244  Pen & Sword Books 180 pp hardback. Amazon


Scotland Yard's Ghost Squad - The Secret Weapon against Post-War Crime.   Another 'Dick Kirby Special' that tells some wonderful stories about how Scotland Yard responded to London's crime problems after World War Two.   More than that, it reflects the culture of policing, the personalities, and the trail from Hymie the Gambler's information to the 96 year-old veteran whose hand on the whisky bottle was as steady as his discretion.   It is well researched, not least in using the private memoirs lent by families of stalwarts whose courage and dedication set the pace for central crime fighting squads for many years to come.   John Gosling  was to stay with the Squad from start to finish, for instance, and represented, with great distinction, the tradition of straightforward, 'old-fashioned' battling against crime and corruption in London.   £12.99   Amazon

ISBN 978 1 84884 4513  Pen & Sword Books   224 pages paperback

The Sweeney - The First 60 Years of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad by Dick Kirby is a terrific book about one of the squads at the Yard who really policed London at the sharp end, and protected the public from the gangs of violent robbers and other criminals who would otherwise have run riot in the capital.   There are accounts of the battle at Heathrow, the race track gangs, the great train robbery and many other operations.   Some criminals come quietly - but most of those investigated by the Flying Squad certainly didn't.   So the discipline, courage and tenacity of this proud group of officers merits their place in policing history.   £19.99.   Amazon

ISBN 978 1 84884 390 5  Pen & Sword Books.   215 pages hardback.

Hardcastle's Obsession by Graham Ison is a fictional tale of a murder investigation set in the first World War, with many authentic references to Scotland Yard and its personalities and conditions of service that existed at that time.

A good plot with a surprising ending.


ISBN 978 0 7278 8002 4 Severn House £18.99  183 pages hardback


The Complete Jack the Ripper A to Z by Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner is indeed the Ultimate Guide to the Whitechapel Murders, and a most welcome revision of what is regarded as a widely respected and authoritative reference work free from bias about particular theories.   A definite asset to anybody seeking information about detailed aspects of the murders, and well illustrated throughout its 580 pages (including index).   ISBN 978-1-84454-797-5   published by John Blake   £17.99   Amazon  
The Guv'nors - Ten of Scotland Yard's Greatest Detectives by Dick Kirby (208 pages) is a welcome book featuring that select band of leaders of crime investigation in London who pass the test of being regarded as detectives' detectives.  In the years before modern legislation and science started to regulate investigations, these were men who occupied the commanding heights of courage, leadership and shrewdness to win the fight against the criminals of their day, and won hard-earned laurels as the builders of Scotland Yard's world-wide reputation.   The list includes Fred Wensley, 'Nutty' Sharpe, Peter Beveridge, Ted Greeno, Robert Fabian, John Capstick, Ernest Millen, Tommy Butler, Ian Forbes and Bert Wickstead.   ISBN 978 1 84563 135 2, published by Pen & Sword.   £19.99    Amazon  
Look out for our own book, The Scotland Yard Files.   Milestones in Crime Detection, published by The National Archives in August 2006.   This book tells the story of how Scotland Yard's detective branch was formed, the first cases involving identification parades, fingerprints, ballistics evidence, Identikit, as well as the inside story of Dr Crippen, Jack the Ripper and many other crimes, all based on the authentic accounts from The National Archives where Scotland Yard's files are stored.  ISBN  1-903365-88-0.    
We are not Manslaughterers - The Epsom Riot and the murder of Station Sergeant Thomas Green by Martin Knight (286 pages) is a thoroughly researched account of the murder in 1919 of Thomas Green by Canadian soldiers  who were awaiting transport back to Canada.   The author explains not only the incident itself, but also the background, aftermath and undercurrents, thereby shedding light on what is a controversial and intriguing part of police history.  £12.99

 ISBN 978-1-907183-14-0  www.tontobooks.co.uk or through Amazon


The Road to Balcombe Street by Steven P Moysey (285 pages) is a thorough description and analysis of the events leading up to the Balcombe Street siege in London in December 1975.   It features a Foreword by Lord Imbert, who as a Detective Superintendent, acted as a hostage negotiator.   The book has clearly benefitted from personal interviews given to the author by Lord Imbert, John Purnell, and other police officers involved in the event.    The author also deals with the hostage negotiation  from a specialist, psychological interest in this aspect of sharp-end police work.   Published by the Haworth Press and available on-line through its own website at www.theroadtobalcombestreet.com

New edition for 2016 - http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Road-Balcombe-Street-Terror/dp/1523284773/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

DNA Crime Investigations, by Stephen Wade (187 pages) is a good account of interesting cases in which DNA has been involved.  It starts with an explanation about DNA and its more recent developments, the historic cases such as Robert Melias and Colin Pitchfork, and then runs through 18 other cases, some of which were concluded in 2009.

ISBN 978 1 84563 105 5   £19.99  Published by  Pen and Sword

Unsolved London Murders - The 1940s and 1950s by Jonathan Oates (168 pages) contains 19 chapters, firstly dealing with the police and criminal underworld of London in the 1940s and 1950s, and then one case per chapter of an unsolved murder.   Some of these are contentious for other reasons (eg Who killed Beryl and Geraldine Evans at Rillington Place in 1949?), and the last chapter deals with whether the murder of Elizabeth Figg in 1959 might have been the work of 'Jack the Stripper'.  Includes a good number of street scenes photographed by the author.

ISBN 978 1 84563 102 4 £16.99         Published by  Pen and Sword

Great Hoaxers, Artful Fakers & Cheating Charlatans by Nigel Blundell & Sue Blackhall (222 pages), recounts, in 32 chapters, various hoaxers, including the false tale of survival of the attack in New York on 9 September 1901, through to forgeries such as the Adolf Hitler diaries.

ISBN 978 1 844680 63 4   £19.99   Published by  Pen and Sword


Miscarriages of Justice - Famous London Cases by John J Eddleston (153 pages) sets out the details of nine cases, involving 12 people, eight of whom were executed.   Five of the 12 have since been pardoned.   Cases such as Arthur Devereux, Steinie Morrison, Frederick Henry Seddon, Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley are included.   Some of these have consumed many volumes of written material arguing for or against the verdict reached on the day, and readers will no doubt experience a range of opinions about each chapter in this heroically concise book.

ISBN 978 1 84563 096 6   £12.99 (paperback)   Published by  Pen and Sword


And for Jack the Ripper enthusiasts, Jack the Ripper - Scotland Yard Investigates by Stewart P Evans and Donald Rumbelow is a collaboration between two ex-police officers who have studied the case since 1960, including a photograph of the police officer who came closest to catching the Whitechapel Murderer red-handed, an analysis of important evidence, an analysis of whether there was a police solution to the murders, and a history of the London police including the social unrest of the time.

Published by Sutton  ISBN 9 7807 5094 4228 7.  Through bookshops, or on-line


The first of the National Archives Crime Archive series was published in June 2007 with the title Jack the Ripper by Val Horsler, a writer on historical and heritage themes.   The book's 108 pages contain extracts from the original police reports, illustrations, an account of the Whitechapel murders and some of the theories, past and present about the killings.   ISBN 978-1-905615-14-8 priced £7.99 from publisher's The National Archives - http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/bookshop/

More titles in the Crime Archive series include - Burke & Hare by Alanna Knight; Dr Crippen by Katherine Watson; John Christie by Edward Marston;  Mrs Maybrick by Victoria Blake;  and Ruth Ellis, also by Victoria Blake.


Villains is a page-turning no-holds-barred account of underworld deals, blaggings, fit-ups and hair-raising stories from policing London in the 60s and 70s, written by Dick Kirby in a style that is not for the faint-hearted. Published by Robinson, 2008   ISBN 978-1-84529-569-1  or on-line.

You're Nicked is an insider view of the operations of the Flying Squad from the 1960s on to the 1990s, including details of an operation with the Serious Crime Squad told for the first time, a fraudster who had it in his power to bankrupt a small European country, and some frank, amusing and hairy incidents in the colourful career of former Detective Sergeant Dick Kirby.

The book is well-structured, has a very thoughtful Foreword by John O'Connor and good continuity between the chapters.   Many of the stories have nice introductions, and then, as you read the stories themselves, you can really hear Dick Kirby the raconteur relating what happened, complete with punch lines, and feel yourself in the same room with the people in the story.

Published by Robinson ISBN 978-1-84529-463-2 or on-line


Crime Scene Investigator - Gripping True Stories of Forensic Detection   by Paul Millen.   Paul Millen started his career in the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory, and then became a well-respected Scenes of Crime Officer working in London's East End and later on the Flying Squad where at one stage he worked with Dick Kirby (above).   There are some excellent stories of forensic crime investigation, but also an account of how he left the Met and developed a forensic crime facility for Surrey Police.

Publisher: Robinson ISBN 978-1-84529-663-6 or on-line


The Real Sweeney -Stories of the Flying Squad by Dick Kirby

Behind the Blue Lamp  - The history of police stations in North and East London

Police Gallantry - The Story of the King's Police Medal

The Missing Museum - The story of the Bow Street museum project

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