Book Spotlight: Wisdom and Rubies by J. F. Slattery

| September 12, 2017

Wisdom and Rubies - by J. F. Slattery - PrintEminent criminal barrister Adolphus Winterbourne had been worried about his godson Arthur before but when he discovered that the young man was in Clerkenwell prison on remand for suspected burglary, he got quite a shock…

It is 1829, and burglary is a capital offence. But Arthur’s brief stay in a London prison on a mistaken charge is only the first in a strange series of interlinked events into which he and Lord Horatio Carlton, his friend and fellow student, are inextricably drawn – events involving every aspect of London life: its journalists and politicians, its artists and scholars, its idlers and gamblers, its burglars, confidence tricksters and pickpockets. Meet George Marshall, irascible editor of The Morning Indicator and his striking print workers; Colonel Henderson and his Indian wife, whose greatest ambition is to walk in a London street without a veil; Oliver Morris and Lieutenant Peterson, on leave from Madras, whose friendship ends in violence and death; and above all, Frank Hoskins – charming, talented, kindly Frank, receiver of stolen goods and police agent, whose career spirals down into robbery and murder. Once Arthur and Horatio lived a life of jokes and laughter but as events unfold they find the shadows of tragedy closing in around them. Only a desperate plea to Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary and founder of the new Metropolitan Police Force, will avert disaster.

When, twenty-five years later, Mr. Winterbourne takes up his pen to write an account of these events, he wonders how he is to do it…

Based on actual police reports of the period, Wisdom and Rubies is an engaging fictional account of a vital period in English social history.

A sequel to ‘Wisdom and Rubies’ will shortly be published, entitled ‘The Scapegoat’. It will be a story of mutiny on a ship returning from China and a subsequent trial for murder, based once again on real events of the period as reported in the newspapers.

Genre: Fiction, Literary

Book Review

As soon as this book arrived I knew that I was in for an educated read.

Wisdom-and-Rubies-A-tale-of-crime-and-misadventure-in-nineteenth-century-London-–by-J.-F.-SlatteryAuthor J. F. Slattery was born in Essex, England in 1950 and is well educated in social history, German literature and philosophy. His research into nineteenth century London is impeccable. He successfully draws his readers into the time period with tales of police/authority, accounts of murder (crime/punishment), religious differences, old customs like dueling and portrays the attitudes and experiences within the full spectrum of London society.

His cast of characters are large in number, are well defined and their conversations, letters, poems, songs and quotes are clear and concise. They draw you into their lives and story.

Great descriptive characters. I especially liked the description of Lord Horatio being excessively intelligent, profoundly sane, not a dreamer but “enthralled, not by imagination, but by reality”. Having said that I like this my mind went to whether this author is a dreamer or not.

I liked the character named Arthur (Lord Horatio’s companion) who “felt some momentary excitement, wondering what a thought–experiment could be”. When Professor Gottschlegel asked his class “think of a wall” and Arthur’s vision of the wall was …”about six feet high, quite new, the brick not yet to discoloured, and on the other side – out of view, but he knew it was there – was a summerhouse.”

The language and mind set of these London times represent a man’s world but not without a few colorful characters like Madame Anastasia “a shrewd, tough Russian who learned her trade among the aristocracy of St. Petersburg.”

Given the title of this book, I would have been disappointed if the author had not quoted through his character Horatio from Proverbs 8:11.

Although the genre is fiction the book is based on actual events so he instructs his readers to “consult ‘The Times’ of 1830” for the actual cases. It is the opinion of this reviewer that every reader will find their own way in this book and come away with something or many things that he or she can relate to.

Theodocia McLean endorses Wisdom and Rubies by J. F. Slattery for the intellectual reader who enjoys reading historical events as they pertain to society, impact on individuals and perhaps a comparison to how far we have come or not come within some societies today. I found this book extremely interesting and thought provoking from the perspective of someone who is not familiar with nineteenth century London. This review was completed on August 2014.

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J. F. Slattery'sAuthor J. F. Slattery was born in Essex, England, in 1950. In the course of a varied education (some said restless mind, others intellectual butterfly) he studied Classics, social history and German – the latter at London University, after which he spent twenty years teaching German literature and philosophy to university students. During this time he published scholarly articles on Heine, Thomas and Erika Mann, and the history of the BBC German Service. In 1995 he decided he could not stand the university world for another moment, so he escaped. In 1996 he founded Slattery Translations, an international business, which in 2000 he relocated to Portugal. He lives in Cascais, near Lisbon.

 Second Book: Before The Beak: True Stories From The London Police Offices In 1830 by J. F. Slattery

Before-the-Beak-True-stories-from-the-London-police-offices-in-1830-by-J-F-SlatteryThis is a book about people, of all social classes, who lived in London in the year 1830. It presents a vivid snapshot of their lives, gained from newspaper reports of cases heard at the police offices. Actual crimes occupy a certain space, but criminals are not the book’s overriding focus. Victims and witnesses of crime appeared in court as well, plus many others who were not criminals, but for whom the magistrates were responsible: children, the mentally ill, spouses involved in domestic disputes and, above all, the unemployed and otherwise destitute seeking relief under the Poor Law.

After an initial Chapter I. Setting the Scene, which provides a succinct account of the socio-political background, and explains the administrative and legal system in the London of 1830, the book is constructed as a series of narratives, featuring individual cases. Chapter II. In the New Year Snow describes the severe winter of 1830, and introduces the police offices and their magistrates. Chapter III. The Poor and the Destitute recounts tragic stories of poverty requiring action by the magistrates in their capacity as Poor Law administrators. Chapter IV. Love, Marriage and the Law has three sections: (i) “Errant husbands and thorough scoundrels” features husbands prosecuted for failure to maintain their families and fathers of illegitimate children sued by mothers for maintenance. (ii) “Domestic strife, elopement and the tar who bought a wife” narrates cases of domestic violence and cruelty, the misadventures of couples who eloped, and the misadventure of a trusting sailor. (iii) “Bigamy” speaks for itself: it was a widespread crime. Chapter V. Children, Animals and Lunatics begins with orphans, abandoned children and child apprentices; then come cases involving the mentally disturbed (in whose often terrible treatment the courts interfered), and finally prosecutions for cruelty to animals carried out by the SPCA (not yet the RSPCA). Chapter VI. The Tempted and the Fallen is divided into (i) “Drink” (cases of drunken people, sometimes funny, but more often tragic) and (ii) “Sex” (a more lurid Chapter, including child brothels in Marylebone and some reported rape cases). Chapter VII. Thieves and their Victims turns to actual crime: (i) “The perils of the street” describes the rife street crime of the period; this is followed by (ii) “Burglars and cracksmen”, and (iii) “Dishonest servants.” The chapter closes with (iv) “A miscellany of theft”, including shoplifting and body-snatching. Chapter VIII. Two Murders recounts two sensational murders which took place in London that year; one was never solved; for the other a man was hanged, and the newspaper reports accompany him to his last moments on the gallows. Chapter IX. Flouters of the Law features prize fighters, duellists, fortune tellers and others who deliberately and repeatedly broke the law. Chapter X. Public Order and Disorder has Chapters: two sections: (i) “The New Police” recounts the foundation of the Metropolitan Police by Peel and narrates cases of unsuitable policemen prosecuted for misbehaviour; while (ii) “Riot and Revolution” portrays the severe rots which occurred in London in November 1830 and the cases of individual rioters who came up before the police magistrates. Finally Chapter XI. 1830 and Beyond brings a medley of cases to close the year, and looks forward to the history of England over the next seventy years, noting that in the lifetime of a person born in 1830 the social and political fabric of England would undergo a complete change.

The general reader interested in history will find this book both funny and tragic, but always fascinating. It would be a perfect bedside book, but it would also be very suitable background at school or university. Lawyers will find a particular interest in its cases. It is original in its approach and lively in its presentation.

Genre: Fiction, Literary

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J. F. Slattery’s Published Works
Before the Beak (Amazon 2012)
Wisdom and Rubies (Troubador 2014)

J. F. Slattery’s Website


Category: Book Spotlight

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