Today I am delighted to hand over the blog to Mandie who has a review of Blue: A Memoir by John Sutherland. I was very fortunate to hear John Sutherland in conversation with Matt Johnson last year and I found his story to be fascinating and the discussion very relevant and moving so I am a little jealous Mandie has read this before me. Before we hear her thoughts, let’s see what the book is all about.
About the Book
A Sunday Times top-five bestseller
‘This is a remarkable book . . . profound and deeply moving . . . It has as much to tell us about mental illness as it does about policing’ Alastair Stewart
John Sutherland joined the Met in 1992, having dreamed of being a police officer since his teens. Rising quickly through the ranks, he experienced all that is extraordinary about a life in blue: saving lives, finding the lost, comforting the broken and helping to take dangerous people off the streets. But for every case with a happy ending, there were others that ended in desperate sadness, and in 2013 John suffered a major breakdown.
Blue is his memoir of crime and calamity, of adventure and achievement, of friendship and failure, of serious illness and slow recovery. With searing honesty, it offers an immensely moving and personal insight into what it is to be a police officer in Britain today.
I dare anyone not to have a new and refreshed respect for those serving in the Police Force after reading this book. We think that we know what they have to deal with based on what we see on the TV or read in books but it doesn’t even come close. Throughout his career the author witnessed both the best and the worst in human nature and at the same time go home to his family and deal with the same issues as everyone else.
We are given an honest insight into the man behind the uniform. Showing how things in his childhood led him to wanting to join the police right through to the point where it all finally became too much and his slow road to recovery you are left in no doubt of what he went through every day in an effort to do his job and serve his community.
There are moments in this book that made me smile but a lot of the time I realised what a sheltered life I lead. What I consider to be a bad day would probably be seen as a very good day. It was only when I was about half way through the book and I read a certain passage that I realised that this was a man who is the same age as me but has seen and experienced way more than I ever will or ever want to. We always read about how the families of the victims are affected by the violent death of a loved one but we never stop to consider the impact and effect it has on the people who have to investigate these crimes. The fact that even now he is unwilling to talk about a hostage negotiation that did not end well is in itself very telling. For all the ones that ended well it will always be the ones that don’t that stay with them.
For me though there are two moments that stand out as the bravest things he did in his career. The first is realising that his mental health was suffering and that he needed help. Knowing that this would affect the career he loved but realising for not just himself but for his family he needs to do this. The second thing was actually writing this memoir. Laying bare the highs and the lows, the daily paperwork, targets and statistics that he faced and the reality of how the job he loved had affected him. Showing the world that having mental health issues are not something to be ashamed of but something that needs to be addressed is probably the greatest service he has ever provided.
To say that I enjoyed this book, although it may be the truth, just sounds so wrong. Its honesty is compelling and there are events that you will remember although some of it will really bring home what people are capable of. For me this was an insight into what it really means to be a police officer and the price they can pay when they put on that uniform.
Thanks Mandie. If you’d like to pick up a copy of Blue for yourself it is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
John Sutherland is a father of three, who lives with his wife and children in south London. For the best part of twenty-five years, he has served as a Metropolitan Police officer.
He won the Baton of Honour as the outstanding recruit in his training school intake and rose through the ranks to become a highly respected senior officer.
Over the course of his career, in which he has been awarded several commendations, he has worked in seven different London boroughs, in a variety of different ranks and roles, and he has been posted to Scotland Yard on three separate occasions.
His most recent operational job was as the Borough Commander for Southwark.
He is an experienced Hostage & Crisis Negotiator.
Since 2015, he has been writing a regular blog about policing, which you can find here: https://policecommander.wordpress.com
You can also find him on Twitter as @policecommander
‘Blue’ is his first book and tells the stories of his policing life – and of the slow recovery from serious illness.