On 7th October 2017, at 6pm, courtesy of Crickhowell Literary Festival, I will have the privilege of being in conversation with a hero of mine.
We will be talking ‘21st Century policing – fact and fiction‘. The title reflects the alternative routes taken by John and me when it came to choosing a publishing medium through which to tell our stories. The evening event will last for about an hour and a half and will be introduced by Chief Constable Mark Collins, Dyfed-Powys Police.
For now, let’s get back to John’s book.
I was already an inspector at Stoke Newington in North London when John Sutherland joined the police. The subtitle to his book – Keeping the peace and falling to pieces – was something I was starting to experience just as he entered the world of London policing. And so, for reasons that may be apparent, I approached this book with some trepidation.
I’ve followed John’s @policecommander twitter feed and his blog for some time and we have been in touch many times. His blog, in particular, is simply brilliant. Eighteen months ago, he came to the London launch of my debut novel and was kind enough to bring me a present. It was a simple gift, but full of meaning. John brought me a tie, a Hostage Negotiator tie, from the Hendon course that he and I had both attended. Me, in 1991, John many years later. My original tie was lost, something I had mentioned to him and, without being asked, John sourced a replacement.
That thoughtful side to John’s character comes across clearly in this, his first book. He is a man who cares, a man who builds bridges.
‘Blue’ is John’s account of his 25-year policing career in the Metropolis, of his experiences and the challenges he faced, and of the eventual toll it took on his mental health. Reading ‘Blue’ took me back, long-forgotten memories returned, and I felt a sense of re-connecting with my past. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Much of ‘Blue’ is written in the form of anecdotes, short stories of incidents, of people and of issues facing the police service. The writing style is that of a narrator, and it very quickly draws you in, to the point where you are soon fully engaged. For me, it felt like a warm blanket, comforting and, at the same time, reassuring that our police service is being run by people like John, who clearly care a great deal for the public they serve.
‘Blue’ made me smile, it made me laugh. It made me cry out in frustration and sympathy and, just near the end, it brought a tear to my eye. I won’t tell you where, but I suspect you will recognise the moment when you read it for yourself. And, I use that word ‘when’ quite deliberately, because I feel this book is essential reading for anyone interested in policing, whether it be as a serving or retired officer, or as a person who is interested in what happens behind the scenes of an organisation charged with preserving peace in our society.
‘Blue’ is a memoir, a one-off account of one man’s police career. But it is far more than that. It is an insight into how the pressures and stresses of the high-paced, career-focussed lives of our senior executives can place unacceptable and unsustainable responsibilities upon them.
A ‘must read’, if ever there was one.