Looking for the exits

‘ … The former homicide detective delivered his shtick to the Saturday night congregation. I was there as a guest of a club member and colleague. The presenter had recently struck trouble for displaying graphic crime scene images; he made a wry aside about taking care to present his expurgated versions to avoid repeating this mistake and in doing so betrayed his contempt for the complainants.

The slideshow was amateurish and littered with spelling errors. It was plain from his laptop’s file browser that he had retained all the gory material for selected presentations. At one point he accidentally projected an image of a dead child by the side of a road. The mental atmosphere amongst the ageing audience was oppressive: they were ruddy complexioned, bovine, and about two notches shy of a lynch mob. The delivery was leavened with base humour, drawing approving clucks and bitter laughs as crooks’ comeuppances were described. One shrew called out ‘suffer!’ at one point.

The evening recalled Molly Lefebure’s descriptions of her dinner parties where her guests clamoured for horror:

To her credit, the late Molly Lefebure’s narrative of autopsies in 1940s Britain is very descriptive, if adjective-laden. What detracts from the book is her ‘jolly hockey sticks’ attitude and storytelling: it is reminiscent of Kenneth More’s delight at losing his legs in Reach for the Sky.

Her cheerful and unwitting disrespect for the dead is as repulsive in 2015 as her enthusiasm for birching the lower classes. In Molly’s judgement, murder victims largely had their own stupidity, cleanliness or depravity to blame for their predicament. They certainly deserved better than be dissected while mortuary staff ate sandwiches, or have their crime scene photographs displayed at her dinner parties for fun.

Miss Lefebure, who sometimes refers to herself in the third person, is a sycophantic proponent of hanging. One feels she would dispatch the ‘dirty old’ lower classes personally if given the chance and never suffer an atom of regret. Indeed, she’d probably invite her rah-rah chums to gloat over the condemned before enjoying lashings of ginger beer.

But amongst the dross I did gather that:

  • Extensive facial injuries — especially those left shrouded — indicate murder by a close relative. The greater the injury, the closer the relative;
  • The owner of crucial identifying footage in a notorious case was angling to sell it rather than assist the police;
  • That a victim’s husband was originally a suspect for not only statistical reasons but because he’d recently suffered marital difficulties. It transpired that his phone’s battery was flat during the time he claimed to be concerned for his wife’s welfare and not switched off; and
  • That a photograph of a house with a characteristic gable was sufficient for me to locate where a criminal lived.

But describing the audience as ‘bovine’ is too harsh — they were much better described as resembling the cast of Wake in Fright. The tenor of wit in the room was closer to when Doc Tydon describes ‘peristalsis’ and someone replies, ‘Perry who?’ ‘Perry Mason!’ The MC recalled John Meillon’s Charlie suppressing a belch when he asks, ‘Will you be … wantin’ your room back? The man bellowing in my ear flogging raffle tickets resembled Tim Hynes. They’re not bad people, I just felt an overwhelming need to escape  … ‘


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