Published by No Exit Press
Available in ebook and paperback (24 May 2018)
My thanks to Anne Cater and No Exit Press for the tour invitation and the guest post. I have read and reviewed an extract of the previous book in this series, Walden of Bermondsey – The First Case and I can recommend this series if you want an interesting and entertaining view of our legal system!
| About the Book |
If you like Rumpole of the Bailey, you’ll love Walden of Bermondsey
Judge Walden is back, to preside over five new cases at Bermondsey Crown Court.
Retired resident judge Peter Murphy takes us back to the world of criminal trials in South London for another session with Charlie Walden keeping the peace between his fellow judges – Marjorie, ‘Legless’ and Hubert – while fighting off the attacks of the Grey Smoothies, the civil servants who seem intent on reducing the court’s dwindling resources to vanishing point in the name of ‘business cases’ and ‘value for money’.
Meet the rum and memorable characters who pop into Charlie’s domain, including Lester Fogle from one of London’s Disorganised Crime Families, Arthur Swivell the one-time Bermondsey singing legend and the very unbardlike Elias Shakespeare. And you will never feel the same about ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ or the Entente Cordiale again.
Fortunately, Charlie has Elsie and Jeanie’s lattes and ham and cheese baps, and newspaper vendor George’s witty banter, to sustain him in the mornings; and in the evenings, the Delights of the Raj, or La Bella Napoli, to enjoy with the Reverend Mrs Walden.
The Walden of Bermondsey Series
by Peter Murphy
The Walden series suggested itself to me over a period of time, before I retired from my day job as a judge. I retired as resident judge (RJ) at the Peterborough Crown Court.
The work of an RJ, in addition to trying the difficult criminal cases coming in front of him or her, involves overall responsibility for the judicial work of the court, promoting the professional welfare of the other judges at the court, and endless wrangling with civil servants about administrative and financial matters. It is a job in which it’s easy to become frustrated by the slow rate of progress, and the constant fight for funding and resources to make the court work as it should in an age of austerity.
Walden is based mainly on my own experience of being an RJ. I wanted to tell my stories in a humorous way, because, mercifully, there is a good deal of humour lurking behind the intense human drama of criminal trials. There are some stories I would love to tell, but can’t – stories of cases too sensitive or tragic to cast as humorous, or of people too easily identifiable. But there are many that are genuinely funny, and which can be told without any such concerns.
So I imagined Charlie Walden: a well-meaning, sometimes grumpy and put-upon RJ, a judge who, at the end of the day, has a good heart and sees it as his job to ensure fairness and justice for all, whatever obstacles are placed in his path. The Bermondsey Crown Court, of which he RJ, is a mythical place; but everyone involved with criminal law in London will know exactly where it is.
I imagined other characters too, of course. The Reverend Mrs Walden, priest in charge of the local Anglican church, is Charlie’s confidante, muse, and companion – and occasionally takes an active role in Charlie’s work, without always telling him she’s doing it. It was easy to imagine Jeanie and Elsie’s coffee bar, tucked away in an archway under the railway bridge, because when I sat in South London, I too started the day with a latte there, and often bought a sandwich if the thought of the canteen food for lunch didn’t appeal. George, the newspaper vendor, is an archetype, to be found on street corners throughout London. And, of course, I imagined the Grey Smoothies, the civil servants who are, apparently, determined to take away every resource the court has in the name of value for money for the taxpayer, and whom Charlie must continually try to keep at bay.
There was another inspiration for Walden, too. I have always loved John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey books, which became a great TV series with Leo McKern in the title role. So I asked myself the question: what would Horace Rumpole have been like as a judge? Of course, the short answer is: he would never have become a judge! He was a fierce and proud defence barrister to the end. But if he had, I believe and hope, that he would have had something of Charlie Walden in him.
Reality can easily transform stories from pure humour into satire, and inevitably Walden has its satirical side. The government’s frontal assault on the legal system in the name of austerity has had several disastrous consequences. The closure of courts has resulted in hardship for the public. The enforced redundancy of experienced court staff has played havoc with the working of those courts that remain. The cuts to legal aid, in civil and family cases as well as criminal, have resulted in a denial of justice to many people faced with devastating, life-changing consequences of their involvement with the law. The cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service threaten its ability to carry out the vital function of prosecuting serious offenders. The frontal assault on the judiciary in terms of pay and conditions has resulted in a critical shortage of qualified candidates for the bench.
Of course, the cuts to the NHS, the police, and the armed forces are what get voters worked up and make politicians worry about lost votes. By comparison, the plight of the courts is all but ignored by the media. But it should concern all of us that in the course of a few years, the government has taken a legal system that was once the envy of the world, and reduced it to third world levels. If Charlie Walden helps to focus your attention on this disaster, in addition to entertaining you, so much the better.
| Author Bio |
Peter Murphy spent a career in the law, as an advocate, teacher, and judge. He has worked both in England and the U.S., and served for several years as counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He is the author of the Ben Schroeder thrillers.