“Fashions in crime are as changeable as the length of skirts, popular music or the food in so-called smart restaurants. Every year or so, the government picks a favourite crime, which, so it is said, is likely to rot the foundations of society and cause universal anarchy. It regularly promises to 'crack down' on the offence of the day, even to the extent of mandatory life sentences. When I was a young whitewig it was frauds on the Post Office and the stealing of stamps, then it was the trashing of telephone kiosks. Later, spraying graffiti on the walls of multistorey car parks and highrise flats was temporarily regarded as worse than manslaughter. At other moments of recent history it has been mugging, stealing mobile telephones and the theft of expensive cars.”—John Mortimer, “Rumpole and the New Year’s Resolution,” in Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002)
The image accompanying this post is of the great actor Leo McKern, who embodied John Mortimer’s poetry-quoting attorney for the indefensible, Horace Rumpole, on British television for years. Although it is a joy to read Mortimer’s droll first-person passages, such as the above, somehow McKern’s basso profundo still resounds in my mind as they sink in.