Friday, November 09, 2007

The Flatfoot

Back in the 1940's all police officers (or "flatfoots") in America were of Irish extraction and had names like O'Houlihan and O'Shea. They spent most of their time chasing young children who were committing minor acts of vandalism on public property. These little hooligans invariable escaped by climbing over fences too daunting for their sweaty, flat-footed pursuers.

Why the American public felt that overweight, middle-aged men were the best candidates to enforce the law is a mystery to me... but by the 1950's a new generation of younger, fitter officers had been hired.

And armed with whistles and short wooden sticks.

Since the standard issue police uniform still included hard-soled leather shoes, these guys still suffered from flat feet. If only they had been allowed to wear gum-soled shoes... imagine how much easier it would have been to catch those kids... but the detectives had cornered the market on gumsoles.

Meanwhile, over in England, the police got to wear inordinately tall hats. They also were issued whistles and wooden sticks... and I can't say for sure, but I'll bet their feet were just as flat as those of their American counterparts.

Since no week focusing on crime fiction illustrations should go by without at least one image by James R. Bingham, here's a nice example the the artist I consider the 1950's master of that genre.

You'll find the full size version of all these images - plus a bunch of others I'm compiling from previous posts - in my Crime! Flickr set.


  1. Great scans...I love these illustrations.

  2. What really blows me away with these pieces is the vibrancy of the colors.
    They are just so beautiful, I love the one with the bloodhounds, whereas the composition of the table scene is just magnificent. Both completely
    create suspense and drama by how the pull the eye into what is going on.