Well-mannered Crooks, Rogues and Criminals

The latest instalment in Mitzi Szereto’s true crime series is published on 15 June. This anthology of stories about rogues contains my piece on Charles Chadwick, also known as Andrew John Gibson, a notorious international conman and serial bigamist. One of the earliest reviews pays tribute to Raffles, the gentleman criminal created by E. W. Hornung, who was brother-in-law to the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan-Doyle. Some commentators see Raffles and his sidekick, Bunny, as Holmes and Watson on the wrong side of the law.

Whilst the Raffles stories are not as well-read as those about Holmes, the name is instantly recognizable and marked a significant change in literature by turning a career criminal into the protagonist and hero. Loveable rogues are now a staple of television and film, sometimes featuring as the main character. Writers who create them are careful to ensure that these characters don’t deliberately hurt innocent people.

Real rogues were different. One can admire Chadwick’s ingenious frauds, including his own release note from prison and practicing as a doctor without medical qualifications but there were victims. A patient died due to his neglect and eight of his ten wives were abandoned. I do not regard him as a hero but would be interested to hear from those who do.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia.

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