Friday, October 24, 2014

Aloha to Sheri Cobb South and FAMILY PLOT (Another John Pickett Mystery)


Sheri Cobb South introduces us to her John Pickett mysteries with a special guest post ...


In many ways, the history of London’s Bow Street force is too complex to be covered adequately in a blog. Whole books could be written—and have been—about this 18th century precursor to Scotland Yard. In his introduction to Henry Goddard’s Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner (William Morrow and Company, 1949), Patrick Pringle notes the lack of contemporary sources, almost all the official records having been destroyed in 1881, when the Bow Street Police Office moved from its original site adjacent to Covent Garden Theatre across the street to the site where the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court building may still be seen.

Still, certain factoids concerning the Bow Street force—their red waistcoats, for instance—turn up repeatedly in novels, assumed by authors to be accurate by their very ubiquitousness; this was certainly my own view when I set out to create Bow Street Runner John Pickett and his world for my mystery series. But when I discovered the aforementioned Memoirs, published posthumously from Goddard’s notebooks, I realized that many of the things I thought I knew about Bow Street were wrong.

Take those red waistcoats, for instance. They are accurate to a point; the Horse Patrol wore them, as did, later, the foot patrol. But the Runners were always a plainclothes force, and very deliberately so: the independent English mind had a horror of the kind of martial law found in European countries, and Bow Street founder Henry Fielding had the wisdom to avoid anything resembling a uniform. Even when the Horse Patrol costume was standardized half a century later, in 1805, their blue coats and red waistcoats were intended to look as much like civilian dress as possible.

Nor was everyone on the Bow Street force created equal—and not everyone was a Runner. The members of the Foot Patrol worked at night, and earned the lowest wages at half a crown—two and a half shillings—a day. As one might expect, this bottom rung of the ladder was where many eventual Runners started out, including memoirist Henry Goddard. He enlisted in the Foot Patrol in 1824, five years before Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police would begin to encroach upon the Runners’ territory. Within a year or two Goddard was promoted to the Day Patrol at a salary of three shillings and sixpence per day. Finally he rose to the position of principal officer—those individuals we know as Runners. (He was twenty-six years old at the time, which told me I was not too far afield in letting my precocious young John Pickett achieve that position at age twenty-three.)

Bow Street Runners were paid twenty-five shillings a week, but they had other ways of supplementing their income. The first of these was by private commission on behalf of anyone who was able to pay them, anywhere in the United Kingdom. (The second John Pickett mystery, A Dead Bore, takes John Pickett to Yorkshire, and the newest release, Family Plot, finds him in Scotland.) The fee for their services was usually a guinea a day and, if the case should take them beyond London, fourteen shillings a day for travel expenses, including meals and lodging. If the case was successful, a reward would be paid as well.

Another income stream derived from the practice of offering payment for convictions. As one might imagine, such a system invited corruption, which had reached its nadir with the 18th century “Thief-Taker General” Jonathan Wild, who enticed the young and/or gullible into committing crimes so that he might collect rewards for bringing them to justice. Although Wild was hanged almost a quarter-century before Fielding’s establishment of the Bow Street Runners, his memory still lived in the public consciousness, and even in death he managed to blacken the reputation of a Bow Street force which operated under a very similar system.

While the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 marked a change in law enforcement in what was the most populous city in the world at the time, it did not mean the immediate end of the Bow Street Runners. They continued in their role of detectives, and their civilian dress gave them advantages over the uniformed—and consequently more conspicuous—New Police. It was not until 1839, ninety years after their founding, that the Bow Street Runners ceased to exist. Still, this early detective force will continue to live on in the imaginations of readers and writers everywhere.

Sheri Cobb South

At the age of sixteen, Sheri Cobb South discovered Georgette Heyer, and came to the startling realization that she had been born into the wrong century. Although she doubtless would have been a chambermaid had she actually lived in Regency England, that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about waltzing the night away in the arms of a handsome, wealthy, and titled gentleman.

Since Georgette Heyer was dead and could not write any more Regencies, Ms. South came to the conclusion she would simply have to do it herself. In addition to her popular series of Regency mysteries featuring idealistic young Bow Street Runner John Pickett (described by All About Romance as “a little young, but wholly delectable”), she is the award-winning author of several Regency romances, including the critically acclaimed The Weaver Takes a Wife.

A native and long-time resident of Alabama, Ms. South recently moved to Loveland, Colorado, where she has a stunning view of Long’s Peak from her office window.

Learn more about Sheri at

Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London (1808)
Public Domain (link)

Mahalo, Sheri, for sharing tidbits about Bow Street!   Sheri is giving away a print copy of FAMILY PLOT:  

In disgrace with her aristocratic in-laws, recently widowed Lady Fieldhurst is exiled to Scotland with her three young nephews in tow. On impulse, she and the boys decide to stay at an isolated seaside inn under an assumed name, where they can enjoy a holiday far away from the scandal that still plagues the family.

But trouble soon finds them when the boys discover an unconscious woman on the beach—a woman who bears a startling resemblance to the local laird’s daughter, missing and presumed dead for the last fifteen years. Uncertain whether to welcome her as a returning prodigal or denounce her as a fraud, Angus Kirkbride sends to London for a Bow Street runner—which presents a dilemma for Lady Fieldhurst, since she has chosen to call herself Mrs. Pickett after the handsome young man who saved her from hanging for the murder of her husband.

Meanwhile John Pickett, hopelessly pining for Lady Fieldhurst, resolves to forget her by marrying another. When magistrate Patrick Colquhoun receives Kirkbride’s summons, he packs Pickett off to Scotland before his most junior runner can do anything rash.

Upon his arrival, Pickett is surprised (though not at all displeased) to discover that he has acquired a “wife” in the person of Lady Fieldhurst. But when Angus Kirkbride dies only hours after announcing his intention of changing his will in his daughter’s favor, “Mr. and Mrs. Pickett” must join forces to discover the truth about a family reunion suddenly turned deadly.

To enter the giveaway,

1.   Leave a comment what you would have been in the Regency Era (as Sheri admits she probably would have been a chambermaid).

2.  Comments are open through Saturday, November 1, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, November 2.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City



  1. I can see myself working up in the nursery with the children.

  2. Well I would have love to have been a duchess! But probably a shop girl

  3. I would have been a Bow Street Runner

  4. Love mysteries set in "merry old England" (and the rest of the British Isles), "back in the day." Much as I like to read about ball gowns and Ducal romances, that wouldn't have been the life for me. I like to work with my hands, and did so in the legal industry for the last 20 years in the word processing department. So I would probably have been one of the earlier secretaries for some person who didn't like being a correspondent or a writer of books...or a business that required "word" work of some kind ... and on one of those early typewriters that came into being in the 18th century. Perhaps a typist for a Bow Street Runner even! Thanks for the very interesting question.

  5. My love of the art that covered the walls of the grand homes of the regency period would make me want to be a nude model. Although I have a degree in art education, I doubt there would be a place for a female artist or teacher except as a lowly governess, so NUDE MODEL IT IS! I love the plot of Sheri's book and would appreciate winning a copy.
    Nancy Lee Badger

  6. not sure; maybe governess

  7. I would rather be a Bow Street Runner than a chambermaid!

  8. Tending to animals in some capacity.

  9. I would definitely have liked to be a titled lady. However, knowing my luck, I would have been stuck emptying the chamberpots.