Dick Kirby – The First Fifty Years
Dick Kirby was born in 1943 in the East-end of London and following an utterly undistinguished secondary school education during which he received not one academic qualification (and nothing has happened during the intervening years to change this situation) he left school at the age of fourteen.
He spent the next nine miserable years in the printing industry, but during this time he started a self-imposed educational programme, read widely, learnt to appreciate music and the arts and became an all-round athlete – a competitive swimmer, a stylish fencer with foil and epée and a skilful gymnast. In addition, Kirby also met Ann, his future wife.
In 1967, Dick Kirby was married with two young children, living in a rented flat and working at a dead-end job when he answered an advertisement to join the Metropolitan Police. To what he has always claimed was their own great, good fortune, he was accepted.
After an inauspicious beginning, when it was debateable whether or not he would be confirmed as ‘a good and
efficient constable’ he became a member of the Criminal Investigation Department and his career really took
off. Achieving enormous success working on ‘Q’ Cars, he attained top marks at the Detective Training School,
passed the examination for detective sergeant, collected the highest number of arrests for the whole of his
division and was appointed detective constable. With a bare two years in the rank, Kirby was selected for the
prestigious Serious Crime Squad and spent the next five years catching international crooks from all over the
world. ‘The Sweeney’ – the Yard’s élite Flying Squad - was his home for eight years where he dealt with the
most formidable and violent armed robbers. His successes were due to his three watchwords: ‘Speed, experience
It was a career that showered him with compliments and commendations. A judge at the Old Bailey described Kirby as being, ‘one of the best detectives at Scotland Yard’, a senior officer in Belfast noted that he was, ‘a good man to have in an explosive situation’ and commissioners, Directors of Public Prosecutions, judges and magistrates commended him for courage, determination and detective ability on forty occasions.
His career took him all over the United Kingdom; in fact, all over the world before ill-health forced his retirement in 1993. It was a combination of the strain of working ‘at the sharp end’ for over a quarter of a century, a car crash and the stress of a troublesome eighteen months in Northern Ireland. A doctor who examined him stated (with some justification) that he was ‘worn out’.
Dick Kirby was down, but certainly not out. His health in tatters, he received enormous love and support from his family and friends and to rebuild his fitness, he became a middle to long-distance runner. As the years passed, he participated in road and cross-country races – anything from five kilometres to half-marathons – all over South-east England.
Now, he needed fresh challenges and new horizons.
Dick Kirby – The Writer
The door, through which Dick Kirby had spent over a quarter-of-a-century, mixing with some of the underworld’s toughest characters, was now firmly shut. Never again would he confront London’s vicious armed robbers, nor solicit information from the likes of ‘Sammy the Snout’ or ‘Rosie the Grass’. But as that door closed, the literary door opened.
Kirby had always been a prolific correspondent; now he turned his literary talents to writing for magazines and after moving house from Upminster, Essex to Suffolk, he embarked upon a writing career. He had a wealth of experiences and anecdotes to share; the informants he had run (including the Metropolitan Police’s one and only double super grass) the arrests of armed robbers, burglars, blackmailers and other assorted scoundrels, crooked cops, even more crooked lawyers and dotty judges.
His fourteenth true-crime book, London’s Gangs at War will be published by Pen & Sword Book in June 2017.
In addition, Kirby has contributed to five anthologies, fifteen other true crime books and contributes to magazines and national newspapers on a regular basis. He is an expert on the history of the Flying Squad and a world authority on the secret Post-war Ghost Squad. Kirby appears on radio and television, is a consultant for a television series, reviews books, films and music and provides talks to groups on his experiences as a Scotland Yard detective.
Dick Kirby was a former member of the Special Forces Club, the Crime Writers’ Association and is a lifetime member of both the Flying Squad Officers’ Association and the Ex-CID Officers' Association and regularly attends the ReCIDivists’ Luncheon Club. With four children and five grandchildren, he lives with his wife, Ann and family in a small village in Suffolk, reading, listening to music, corresponding with friends all over the world and tending his garden. He freely admits that he could not perform police-work by today’s standards and at the same time acknowledges that the police of today would not employ him; but although many years have passed since he and the Metropolitan Police parted company, he wryly admits, “I’ve never really left it.”
He can be contacted, for media or publishing enquiries via Pen & Sword Books Ltd at 01226 734222 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org