Miami v Midsomer

We’re all used to American cops spraying bullets around like they were going out of fashion, killing possible criminals and conveniently avoiding the expensive route through the justice system.

But in Britain? More and more we are seeing dramas about British cops on British streets armed and licensed to whack.

Some, like the hugely popular Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, give the central characters weapons willy-nilly: I think the fabled Gene Hunt wandered round Manchester and London with a Colt .45 Magnum in his armpit. The writers said, apparently, something to the effect that they knew it was silly, but it was fun and underscored Gene Hunt’s mythic status as a heroic Sherrif with his Mancunian posse.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Gene Hunt as much as the next Gene Hunt fan, but I loathed the glamourised US-style gun violence. The writers made a point about the nastiness of beatings and knifings, but the guns seemed to be a running joke.

Rant over. Here’s a BBC report on 2011 murder statistics, including gun crime.

Hideous enough in reality, but nowhere near enough to account for the wholesale slaughter committed by crime writers in any one year. Please note that two murders were committed with crossbows, which seems very Midsomerish.

A careful comb through the stats might give writers the spark of an idea, whether you’re writing crime fiction or not.

And while you’re at it, think about the comparison with US stats:

Number of murders, United States, 2010: 12,996

Number of murders by firearms, US, 2010: 8,775

Number of murders, Britain, 2011*: 638 (since Britain’s population is 1/5 that of US, this is equivalent to 3,095 US murders)

Number of murders by firearms, Britain, 2011*: 58 (= 290 US murders)

Number of murders by crossbow in Britain, 2011*: 2 (=10 US murders).

The main characters in Life on Mars, from left...
The main characters in Life on Mars, from left: DC Skelton, DCI Gene Hunt, DI Tyler, DS Carling and WPC Cartwright (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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