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The Sheffield Gang Wars

Uncategorised Posted on Tue, March 23, 2021 15:00:27

During the 1961 movie The Frightened City, there’s a moment when detective John Gregson’s sergeant (Frederick Piper) muses that they’re never going to find anyone willing to testify against the protection rackets. What they need is a strong man to break up the gangs, “like Percy Sillitoe.”

Sir Percy Sillitoe had retired as head of MI5 nine years earlier, but his memoir Cloak Without Dagger had been published in 1955, consolidating his reputation as the man who broke up the razor gangs of Glasgow and the street gangs of Sheffield. But J. P. Bean’s The Sheffield Gang Wars makes it clear that life is not as straightforward as a newspaper headline.

First published in 1981 by D&D Books, The Sheffield Gang Wars was reprinted every other year up to 2009 (when I bought my copy) and stayed in print for at least 30 years. J. P. Bean told the Yorkshire Post in August 2011 that growing up in working class Sheffield, he’d heard tall tales about the 1920’s gangs from his grandfather, a racecourse bookie, and decided to research the facts.

At the root of the 1920’s gang wars was illegal gambling based on Pitch and Toss – one of the simplest forms of gambling – which took place on four sites in Sheffield including Sky Edge, “an elevated expanse of wasteland high above the city,” near the site of the present-day Park Hill apartments. Luckily, Val Guest recreated the Pitch and Toss rings in his 1960 movie Hell Is A City which helps us get an idea of a simple pastime could inflame passions.

As Bean explains, “Three coins (the film shows only two) are placed on the ends of the first two fingers and tossed, spinning, into the air. Bets are made on the proportion of heads to tails – or vice versa – as they fall to the ground.”

The rings were run by a toller, who collected a toll on each bet made. Out of this he paid the ponter who kept order and the crows or pikers who kept watch for police. “Sky Edge…its ideal position and strategically placed pikers making it virtually immune against police raids- meant that the Skyring, as it was known, attracted big money gamblers from miles around.”

It was a dispute over control of the ring which triggered the bloody gang wars. The Mooney Gang under George Mooney had inherited the ring from a local bookmaker, but Sam Garvin, leader of the local Park Brigade believed that as it was in their territory the profits should be theirs. Razors, bricks and broken bottles were some of the implements used, although there was always room for improvisation with a child’s scooter being used as a blunt instrument in one fatal encounter.

Quite apart from the struggle for control of gambling, there was a general increase in lawlessness. Gangs demanding free drinks from publicans, general muggings, and youths (teenagers hadn’t been invented yet) “influenced by, and attempting to emulate the behaviour of the Mooney Gang and the Park Brigade.”

The Chief Constable of Sheffield, Lt.Col John Hall-Dalwood warned that his force was becoming unable to fulfil its main purpose of crime prevention due to the increasing additional duties being imposed on the police. Even if they could get criminals to court, magistrates were granting bail too readily and convicting less often. “You have to produce more evidence for prosecution in a Sheffield court to get a conviction than in any other town in the country.”

In the end, it was the murder of a Glaswegian ex-soldier called William Plommer which was the turning point. Plommer had intervened in a fist-fight between two opposing gang members to see fair play. The loser had threatened, “You’ll get a tanning for this, Jock,” and the following evening had appeared with five associates outside Plommer’s house. Plommer offered to fight them one-by-one, but after he took the first out with one punch, the others piled in with a variety of implements including a bayonet which in all probability struck the fatal blow. Two brothers were hanged at Armley Prison for the murder, but the publicity also brought about the end of the Sheffield gangs.

Word had come down from the Home Office that Sheffield had to be brought under control and on May 1st 1925, Hall-Darwood formed a Special Duties Squad. Led by ex-Guardsman, Detective Sergeant William Robinson, the “Flying Squad” was made up of three constables, all transferred to plain clothes. Their method was targeted disruption. “Not waiting to quell trouble when it occurred, they combed the city looking for it…The razors and life preservers much favoured by the gangs were countered by fists, boots and regulation truncheons...Unconstitutional such methods may have been, but…the Flying Squad had been created because normal methods of suppressing prevalent lawlessness had failed.”

Despite the success of the Special Duties Squad, Chief Constable Hall-Dalwood was irked by what he saw as ineffective magistrates and lack of support from the watch committee (predecessors of today’s Crime Commissioners). Bean asserts that Sheffield City Council was controlled by a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives “becoming increasingly concerned at the upsurge of support for the Labour Party.” Labour meetings were disrupted by thugs alleged to be part of the Park Brigade. When a new Corporation housing estate at Walkley was opened (“to those living in the slums, a Corporation house with bathroom, inside toilet and garden was almost beyond the realms of imagination..”) Sam Garvin, leader of the Park Brigade, was one of the first to move in.

In January 1926, Hall-Dalwood resigned on health grounds, and in May 1926, Captain Percy Sillitoe became the new Chief Constable of Sheffield. Sillitoe beefed up the Flying Squad, and appeared at court hearings to plead with the magistrates to take a hard line. “There has been a series of outbreaks of hooliganism in this district and I feel the police must be protected. The only way is by exemplary sentences so that other people cannot think they can do this kind of thing.”

Is it the case that Sillitoe was the better manager, willing to fight for the resources he needed while Hall-Dalwood could only complain about being undermined by, “an insidious influence from outside”? Or had Hall-Dalwood already been worn down by twelve years of conflict with the Watch Committee? Bean looks at both sides of the argument although unfortunately much of the evidence was already lost.

Within twelve months of Sillitoe’s appointment, the gangs had disappeared, although Bean notes that when Sillitoe arrived they were already fragmented and lacking leadership due to the war of attrition initiated by Hall-Dalwood. The issues surrounding the Sheffield Gang Wars have their parallels today. As Bean notes, the gangs did not carry out their activities in middle class areas. An undermanned police force and lack of political will to tackle the problems resulted in a reign of terror for the law-abiding poor. When the murder of William Plommer resulted in national headlines, the Home Office sanctioned an immediate (if unconstitutional) solution.

The Sheffield Gang Wars by J.P. Bean. 135 pages. D&D Publications. 1981

Ultraviolet (1998)

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, March 11, 2021 09:01:23
“Our Free Range days are over…”

Proving you can never underestimate the ability of the British entertainment industry to shoot itself in the foot, the 1998 TV series Ultraviolet looks even better today than it did in its original 6 episode run on Channel Four. Written and directed by Joe Ahearn (later to direct Dr Who and adapt James Herbert’s The Siege of Crickley Hall) the series about a secret Vatican-funded agency hunting down highly-organised vampires, rarely puts a foot wrong and is lent an extra veneer of prescience when viewed in Lockdown Britain .

Susannah Harker

The opening episode Habeas Corpus (15 September 1998) kicks off like a stylishly night-shot episode of The Professionals .Detective Sergeant Michael Colefield (Jack Davenport) drops his drunken partner Jack Beresford (Stephen Moyer) home on the eve of his wedding and then agrees to meet an informant at a late-night amusement arcade. The informant is shot, and Jack pursues the killer into the underground but walks past him when the killer pauses at the corner of a tunnel and shows no reflection in the safety mirror at the entrance.

Jack fails to show for his wedding and two internal investigators from CIB2, March and Rice (Susanna Harker and Idris Elba) question Michael about Jack’s disappearance. Jack contacts Michael and begs him to keep quiet, saying the CIB officers are part of a death squad. Michael initially believes Jack when he sees Rice lead a machine gun attack on the man who killed his informant. In a remarkably assured first hour, Jack Davenport convincingly moves from incredulity to belief as he learns from Father Pearse Harman (Philip Quast) that March and Rice are part of a Vatican-financed group hunting vampires. Immortal and well-organised, the Code Fives (Code V’s) or Leeches are working behind the scenes to control society. The future of our descendants is in battery farms, Pearse tells him, “Our Free Range days are over.”

The Undead Store

Even though the Code Fives can be atomised by guns firing wooden bullets, they are capable of regeneration, and their ashes have to be stored in a high-tech prison. March, a doctor specialising in blood diseases, tells Michael that the Jury’s still out on crucifixes and holy water. “A bit like Homeopathy – A matter of faith on both sides…they can be superstitious too.” Although the Leeches burst into flame when touched by sunlight, the more audacious ones are able to drive around in daylight if their cars have UV tinted windows. While they can’t use mobile phones (for the same reason they’re not captured on CCTV) they can communicate with digital voice communication systems. And they also have plenty of human collaborators. “They have a way of finding out what you want…The mid-30’s are the prime recruiting ground. It’s when we start to realise it’s all going to end.”

Rice, a former soldier who survived a vampire attack during Desert Storm, tells Michael that, “They’re obsessed with virus’, diseases, anything that messes up their food supply.” The Code Fives carry out medical research into Sickle Cell Anaemia, Cancer, but their motives aren’t benevolent. As Pearce reminds Michael – “When we first identified BSE we didn’t look for a cure – we just culled the threat to the food chain”.

Viewed from the perspective of COVID 2021 and initial arguments over “Herd Immunity”, Ultraviolet has a renewed irony. The show portrays a secret, hyper-efficient alliance between the Church and State but anyone with concerns about civil liberties can be assured it couldn’t happen here. Certainly the less-than-efficient Track-and-Trace alliance between the State and Serco would seem to support that.

Each episode of Ultraviolet is fast-moving and engaging. It was written at a time when actors were still given dialogue that progressed ideas and emotions rather than smart-arse one-liners. But if I had to single out one moment of sustained suspense, it would have to be the fifth episode Terra Incognita . It is an episode that builds, in an intelligent way, on Bram Stoker’s Dracula – specifically the sequence where Jonathan Harker tracks the audit trail of coffins which Dracula has imported into England. But a moment of vivid originality comes when Vaughn Rice is whacked on the head, and wakes up to find himself trapped in a warehouse with four of the coffins he’s been searching for.

Electronic Timers countdown the minutes until the coffins will automatically open. Rice still has his mobile phone, but that only tells him that help will be too late. He still has his gun – but it only has one wooden bullet. Ahearne ramps up the tension with cross-cutting as Rice phones March to make a last phone call and then hangs up with nothing to say. What would you do? What WOULD you do?

In a just world, there would have been more than one series of ULTRAVIOLET. But no, this is England, after all.

The Puritan Princess

Uncategorised Posted on Mon, March 01, 2021 07:17:57

I would guess most of us have an imprecise image of Oliver Cromwell – We might think of the Airfix construction kit perhaps (discontinued 1980), the cinematic portrayals by Richard Harris or Tim Roth, or of course Patrick Wymark’s cameo in Witchfinder General (it’s ironic that, although Wymark played Cromwell three times, only the briefest performance survives).

Patrick Wymark as Cromwell in Royalist and Roundhead

Some may think of Oliver Cromwell, not as a man, but a mood; A stern and disapproving cloud that hung over Britain until the monarchy was restored. It’s probable that few of us think of Cromwell as a husband and father. And although we know that he ruled Britain as Lord Protector, how many of us know what that really meant?

The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins is written in the voice of Frances, Cromwell’s youngest daughter. This gives us an insight we know is going to be biased, but at the same time very different from the standard ‘objective’ portrait. Although Cromwell refused Parliament’s offer to make him King, his family find that his position as Lord Protector means they are treated as if they are a kind of royalty, They divide their time between Whitehall during the week and Hampton Court at weekends. People curtsey, servants open doors and call them ‘highness.’ We know this will be a brief taste of elegance – the book opens with a framing sequence, based on the vindictive exhumecution in 1661 of the enbalmed Cromwell by the returning Monarchy. So we don’t begrudge the Cromwell’s their tapestried chambers. In any event their lives are touched by peril from the opening chapters, with attempts to assassinate Cromwell a vivid threat.

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t an adventure novel. There’s a threat of violence, but not much skirmishing. At the same time, this isn’t a Dr Who-style retro-wish-fulfilment with a 21st Century sensibility imposed a 17th Century character. As Miranda Malins notes in her afterword, “the upheaval of the Civil Wars had given women new opportunities to show strength, and Cromwell’s daughters were widely admired for their staunch characters.” Frances becomes a witness to the life of the Protectorate, reporting the arguments in favour of making Cromwell a king ( the people understand and trust what a king is, whereas, “they don’t understand the role of Lord Protector, they don’t trust it, don’t know where they stand.”) and Cromwell’s reasons for refusing. She also provides a daughter’s view of the feared leader, watching him laughing and carry out drunken practical jokes at a party, and recalling the “ruddy, rustic father..” of her childhood as he works late into the night at a paper-strewn table.

But while we’re given an insight into the court of Cromwell, this is definitely Frances’ story. The early part of the story concerns the various suitors for the ‘puritan princess’ and Frances’ identification of her ‘preferred bidder’. One of the most striking pieces of ‘what if’ comes with the bid by Parliament for Frances to marry Charles Stuart, exiled son of the executed King. With Stuart desperate to regain his throne, the suggestion is that, “your father and Parliament could set him any terms, any limitations they wished. Terms which his father was too stubborn to accept.” What a concept. Charles Stuart married to Cromwell’s daughter. A peaceful transition. How different would the history of Britain have been, if Cromwell had agreed to the match?

As I’ve admitted that I know little about Cromwell, it would be wrong for me to say how accurate The Puritan Princess is. Certainly, it is convincing. There’s never a point where the dialogue seems anachronistic and the passages dealing with death and mourning do remind us that these were people who thought very differently from us. At the same time, the view of Cromwell trying to hold the republic together in the face of self-interest from both Parliament and the Army makes it seem contemporary (perhaps not for the United Kingdom, but certainly many other 21st Century states). In the final chapter, Miranda Malins takes us into the realm of myth and speculation, but it does provide a satisfying climax to a compelling novel.

The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins. Orion Books £8.99 ISBN 978 1 4091 9481 1

Ted Lewis rarities – The Rabbit and All The Way Home…

Uncategorised Posted on Mon, February 01, 2021 18:46:54

The Rabbit and All the Way Home and All the Night Through are two of the earliest novels by Ted Lewis, author of Get Carter. Long out of print, the two novels are now available in new editions from The Ted Lewis Centre, set up in his home town of Barton-upon-Humber.

While neither are crime stories, the sharply autobiographical novels give an insight into the character of Lewis and a foretaste of the world to which Jack Carter would return.

First published in 1975, The Rabbit is one of Lewis’ later novels, but takes place in the 1950’s and draws upon Lewis’ experiences as a student working through the Summer holidays for the quarry managed by his father. Set in a small backwater village that will always be behind-the-times, The Rabbit has an authentic timelessness – only the sexual explicitness of one particular sequence clues you in to the fact that this was written in the 1970’s, rather than the early 1960’s. Otherwise the atmosphere is more Stan Barstow than Raymond Chandler, as Lewis’ alter ego Victor Graves tries to win the acceptance of bullying workmate Clacker Harris.

All The Way Home and All Night Through is Ted Lewis’ first novel. Published by Hutchinson in 1965, it recreates Lewis’ life as a student at Hull Art College. We’re lucky now to have Nick Triplow’s Getting Carter which allows us to see just how closely Lewis exploited his early experiences. That’s probably what’s so remarkable about the book. Lewis makes no attempt to portray the central character of Victor Graves in a good light. He is both exploitative and self-destructive, intent on seducing and discarding female students at the art college, but also intensely jealous of their new relationships. Like Lewis, Victor seems to be something of a ‘golden boy’ at college, but the sheen wears off when he tries to find a job, and he endures living back with his parents, being ‘subbed’ by his father.

A Black and Tan

All the Way Home and All the Night Through certainly presents a fascinating picture of a late 1950’s way of life that is – in some ways different and in others not so. The sexual excess is a bit of a surprise – the head librarian of Hull University told us that sex only started in 1963, after all. But the drinking possibly not. Victor is constantly drinking Black and Tans in the novel, which I’d never heard of, but it turns out to be a quarter of stout poured on top of three quarters of light ale (above). Could there be a more noir drink than that?

The Rabbit and All the Way Home and All the Night Through can be ordered from the online shop of The Ted Lewis Centre at this link

A THRILLER in Every Corner

Uncategorised Posted on Mon, January 18, 2021 15:16:05

The biggest problem with A THRILLER in Every Corner, Martin Marshall’s unofficial and unauthorised guide to Brian Clemens’ 1970’s TV show, is that every chapter tempts you to stop and rewatch another episode. At 732 pages covering 43 hour long episodes, that’s quite some stop and start!

The dictionary definition of “exhaustive” is: “Thorough, treating all parts or aspects without omission,” and A THRILLER in Every Corner certainly meets that definition. THRILLER was first broadcast by ATV in the 1970’s. Viewers knew it had been sold to an American TV network, the money coming handcuffed to an American guest star in almost every episode. Insomniac tele-addicts were also perplexed to see the THRILLER episodes resurfacing on late-night TV in the 1980’s, masquerading as TV Movies with dire extended title sequences. But Martin Marshall has put every piece of the jigsaw together to reveal a fascinating sequence of events.

For the first time (for most of us) it’s possible to understand the origins and format of the ABC Wide World of Entertainment late-night strand that gave THRILLER (and also Monty Python) its exposure in America. And there’s a lot of side-detail which doesn’t directly relate to THRILLER but is nonetheless intriguing. Two episodes of the BBC’s Quiller TV show starring Michael Jayston* played out in expanded form on Wide World of Entertainment for instance. And the gruelling Yorkshire TV play The Break (1974) starring Robert Shaw turns out to have been part of a two play deal with David Frost to provide product for ABC (the other, Who Killed Lamb, starring Stanley Baker, still survives on the THRILLER box set).

*I’ve been reminded that Michael Jayston also starred in two classic episodes of THRILLER – ‘Ring Once for Death’ and ‘A Coffin for the Bride.’

Paul Burke & Polly Bergen: Echo of Theresa

Despite the level of detail, Martin Marshall has structured the book with plentiful and clear subheadings so that you can follow it in chronological order, or dip in to the sections that interest you. The book is also written in a straightforward but engaging style so that you don’t tire of it, even if you glance at the clock and suddenly realise it’s two in the morning.

Katharine Schofield and Norman Eshley

Sadly, many of the participants are no longer with us, but the book does include comments from a number of actors and technical crew. Norman Eshley, who played Carnation Killer, Arthur Page in The Colour of Blood provides a fascinating insight into this emblematic early episode (the lack of an American guest star appears to have been down to illness on the part of an actress, with Katharine Schofield having to step into the part without rehearsal). I’ve already noted the temptation to stop reading and screen the episode you’re reading about as you learn something new. As Marshall says, Norman Eshley is skillfully disconcerting as the killer, in a script which pulls you right around at least twice, just when you think you know where the story is going to go. The paragraph on page 146, in which Brian Clemens relates the inspiration for this episode is a satisfying little thriller in itself.

The book delivers a comprehensive rundown of the history of the show both during its initial run and afterwards. I was surprised to learn that the TV Movie versions shown on British TV in the 1980’s weren’t part of the original American broadcasts but the result of a bid by ITC’s US arm to squeeze extra mileage out of the product.

THRILLER was made on tape rather than film (albeit with 35mm, rather than the usual 16mm location film inserts). That appears to have been a budgetary consideration from ABC itself (the timeslot was previously occupied by a chat show) and we learn that even Universal started recording TV movies on tape to fill this slot. This is probably the biggest single barrier to modern audiences, raised on film. However, Martin Marshall puts his finger on the appeal of of taped shows; “(the) feeling of ‘immediacy‘. Two interlaced fields for every picture provide an ‘as live’ visual texture…as if one is gazing in a mirror or across a room.” Terror is never further away than a stretched fingertip – that’s a THRILLER.

A THRILLER in Every Corner by Martin Marshall is £28.88 from Lulu.Com at this link

A Ghastly Tale…

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, January 07, 2021 20:25:53

The Nightmare was a one page strip which appeared in SCREAM, the short-lived 1983 IPC horror comic which lasted for 15 issues before being merged into Eagle. Even after the success of 2000AD, many readers were surprised that the staid IPC/Fleetway had even got a weekly horror comic off the ground, so its rapid demise was less of a shock.

Earlier this year, I saw a post on Twitter which recalled The Nightmare

Well, Steve’s recollection was an improvement on the Scream Comic Files website where the verdict was, “this story is bollocks.”

What’s really weird about this strip is that it wasn’t written for Scream. As you can see below, it was bought by Dave Hunt, the editor of Eagle, for a feature they had called The Amstor Computer. It was the only thing I ever managed to sell to Eagle, and I was surprised (but pleased) when it turned up in Scream (incidentally, £23 in 1984 would be worth around £82 in 2020).

As I said, it was the only thing I ever managed to sell to Eagle. And what’s really bizarre is that I got the idea when I saw a book of fairy tales published by Peter Haddock, which had a cover by Johnny Red and One Eyed Jack artist John Cooper. Somehow the image of a hardcore action artist drawing fairy tale characters kicked off the story above. Of course, I didn’t say in my cover letter that this was what had given me the idea, so I was even more pleased and surprised to see that they’d given John Cooper the job of drawing it.

Of course, if I’d known IPC was planning a horror comic, I’d have sent them something along those lines (the only reason I saw the finished job was because I was buying Scream as a reader). But, given the circumstances, over the years, I’ve figured that maybe it was all down to fate – I was walking in front of a bullet with Humpty Dumpty’s name on it that day.

Incidentally, you can check out the whole page at this site where you can read full issues of Scream.

Spyship (1983)

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, January 02, 2021 19:47:01

In the seas between Norway and Russia, the British trawler Caistor disappears in mysterious circumstances as NATO and the Soviet Union keep an uneasy eye on each other.

Adapted by James Mitchell (Callan) from the novel by Tom Keene and Brian Haynes, Spyship was the first starring role for Tom Wilkinson, as a reporter trying to find out the truth about the disappearance of the vessel on which his father was chief engineer. You can read more about Spyship here.

Cribb: Swing, Swing, Together.

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, December 19, 2020 21:28:29
Heather Moray, Alan Dobie, and Albert Welling

Swing, Swing, Together, the first episode of Granada TV’s Cribb was first broadcast on Sunday 20 April 1980. Adapted from Peter Lovesey’s novel by Brian Thompson, it was an engaging opening to the series (Granada had adapted the final Cribb novel, Waxwork, the previous year).

Directed by series producer June Wyndham-Davies and made all on film, the setting was based on the Victorian mania for Jerome K. Jerome’s novel Three Men In A Boat (to say nothing of the Dog). Published in August 1889, the humorous account of a boating holiday along the Thames sold in huge numbers. The following year, readers began to recreate the journey from Kingston-Upon-Thames to Oxford. During an illicit midnight bathing session in the Thames, student teacher Harriet Smith (Heather Moray) sees three men (and a dog) in a boat, close to the point in the river where a body is discovered. Cribb inducts her as a witness on a boat trip along the Thames. Together with his assistant, Constable Thackeray (William Simons) and PC Hardy (Albert Welling) , who had rescued Harriet from the river, they pretend to be recreating Three Men on a Boat so they unobtrusively catch up with the three suspects.

Thackeray (William Simons) questions Michael Ripper

The scale of their task is explained by a lock keeper (played beloved Hammer Films actor Michael Ripper) when Thackeray asks him if he’s seen three men in a boat (with a dog). “I’d like to have a bob for every joker with that hoary old tale – they get through the first night at Runnymede alright, fix at the Crown at Marlowe – then they come through here.mind you, only the real fanatics has a dog!”

When Cribb finally locates the three men in a boat, he tests them as to their knowledge of the book. Though somewhat suspicious, there is no obvious connection with the earlier murder. While trailing their suspects, the detectives encounter two further travellers – Brian Rawlinson (The Onedin Line) as the scripture-quoting Jim Hackett and the preening but improbably-bearded Ronald Lacey as Percy Bustard (“spelt with a U”). Rawlinson is cheerful and open while Lacey adopts a typically scene-stealing cavalier manner. Further up river the two companions pull another body from the Thames but Cribb is forced to let the local police constable take charge in order to conceal his true identity.

Alan Dobie is lightly amusing as Cribb, an educated working-class character, quick-witted and wily. Introduced ten-minutes into the action, he dominates the scene at the training college where he questions Harriet Smith. He tells her that PC Hardy was, “torn like a Christmas cracker” between his promise to keep her midnight swim secret and his duty when the body was discovered. Cribb also over-rules the fearsome college principal Sheila Keith (Frightmare, House of Whipcord) insisting that he needs to take Miss Smith away as a witness. We see a little more of the hierarchical structure of the Metropolitan Police as Cribb sits in the back of the skiff reading Three Men in a Boat, while Thackeray and Hardy row. When Hardy sarcastically suggests that Cribb reads to them, the Sergeant snaps back, “With three hundred pages ? You can read it yourself.”

As the journey progresses towards Oxford, the story becomes something like an ancestor of Inspector Morse. At one of the colleges, Cribb encounters John Fernandez (Mark Burns) who may be a potential victim or suspect, and Mrs Bonner-Hill, played in a deceptively winsome style reminiscent of Fenella Fielding by Jane How. The question for Cribb is how all the leads tie together.

As the lead episode in the series Swing, Swing, Together looks to have had a lot of money spent on it. The background details are convincing, although often played for humour – Cribb receives a call on a primitive telephone and barks his side of the conversation into the mouthpiece while Thackeray sits with his fingers in his ears. The underlying mystery from Lovesey’s novel is well-handled and the climax has a most outrageous revelation, handled with aplomb by the actors’ involved.

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