Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai

By Robert Bickers | Go to book overview

5
Shanghai Detective

‘Richard M. Tinkler’ reads the calling card stored amongst his papers, a new name for a new man. Detective Constable Tinkler was in his element strutting across the Shanghai stage on the pages of letters home to Edith, now working in a Barrow-in-Furness dressmakers. He piled it on thick at times. She could see, laid out in his lengthy, opinionated descriptions, a world recognizable from the popular fictions and sensational newspaper accounts which feasted at loving length on post-war society drug scandals, and exposes of Chinatown opium ‘dens’ in London: Sax Rohmer’s Dope: A Novel of Chinatown and the Drug Trade (1919), the acres of newsprint devoted to the case of ‘Brilliant Chang’, jailed for cocaine possession and supply in London in 1924.1 In his letters through to early 1925 Tinkler wrote of the raids he made, his life in the police (sending back the odd copy of a report to show what he was up to), and his often caustic views about the SMC. These were the good years, really good years, and Tinkler worked with a steady application that consolidated a cracking start at the Depot. He rose swiftly through the ranks, and was one of the obvious stars of his cohort. His education and aptitude promised to take him far in the force. The personnel file for him in the Shanghai Municipal Archives is pretty slim through to 1929 - a good man doesn’t generate much paper - but we can use it, his letters and other documents from the force archives, to get a sense of the world he found as a policeman in Shanghai.

Shanghai gets in the way here. Cities live in the imagination in ways that skew our understanding of how they were lived in. Histories, guidebooks and memoirs can hinder rather than help. It was, remembered Maurice Springfield, ‘a city of contrasts with extremes of

-95-

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Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • I - The Empire World 1
  • 2 - Before Shanghai 18
  • 3 - Shanghai 1919 39
  • 4 - The Shanghai Municipal Police 64
  • 5 - Shanghai Detective 95
  • 6 - ‘Learning to Be a Man’ 130
  • 7 - The End of the ‘Good Old China’ 163
  • 8 - What We Can’t Know 202
  • 9 - Adrift in the Empire World 223
  • 10 - Empire’s Civil Dead 252
  • 11 - Aftermath 290
  • 12 - We Are the Dead 328
  • Acknowledgements 343
  • Ranks in the Shanghai Municipal Police, Foreign Branch 346
  • Note on Currency 347
  • Romanization of Chinese Words and Names 348
  • Illustrations 349
  • Notes 352
  • Unpublished and Archival Sources 390
  • Index 395
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