Orkney Twilight is about a teenager, Sam, who
falls into the shadowy world of her father, Jim, an undercover cop. My dad was
a policeman of various sorts – uniformed, a detective, and an undercover cop. One
of the catalysts for the novel was re-viewing the cop programmes I used to
watch with him when I was younger. Seeing these series the second time around,
I found myself wondering about the facts and fictions.
was the decade of my childhood. My dad loved The Sweeney. Everybody did. Although he said it wasn’t very
realistic. On the other hand, he claimed he had met John Thaw in a bar and
given him some tips on how to play Inspector Regan. So now you know. Regan - that’s
The series he
really rated was The Sandbaggers.
This ran from 1978 to 1980 and was about a unit of secret agents. I thought it was
totally boring when I first watched it. The main character is Neil D. Burnside,
who keeps one eyebrow permanently arched while trolling around Whitehall
negotiating mission objectives and budgets. Game playing with ministers and
bureaucrats. I remember my dad pointing at Burnside. ‘That’s me,’ he said. ‘That’s
my job. That’s what it is really like.’
He was running
a unit of undercover cops at the time.
Burnside are both divorced. My dad wasn’t. Regan’s daughter appears in an early
episode only to be kidnapped. The cop’s daughter as victim, I began to notice
with some frustration, is a regular trope of crime fiction. A shorthand route to
the vulnerable centre of the hardboiled cop. I couldn’t relate to it. I wanted
to subvert the cliché.
Twilight the cop’s daughter is the main protagonist. She is a wilful teenager, probably
because she has grown up with an obdurate cop of a
father. The truths in Orkney Twilight are
the human ones. I don’t have any secrets to reveal about the operational
realities of undercover policing. Apart from my dad’s observation that his job
was like that of Burnside in The
Sandbaggers. And that was just another of his stories anyway. I assume.
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