James McLevy

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James McLevy (1796–1875) was a prominent detective in Edinburgh during the mid-19th century, and later an author of popular crime mysteries.

Biography[edit]

The son of a farmer, he was born in Ballymacnab in County Armagh, Ireland. McLevy later moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, and became a builder's labourer before joining the police force in 1830.

In 1833 he became Edinburgh's first detective and handled 2,220 cases during his 30-year career, almost always securing a conviction. His fame was such that the UK Parliament asked for his advice on dealing with criminals and Mary Carpenter, the great social reformer, quoted him in her paper on dealing with convicts.

McLevy published a series of extremely popular books in the 1860s, including Curiosities of Crime in Edinburgh, Sliding Scale of Life and The Disclosures of a Detective. It is sometimes suggested that his writings helped to inspire Arthur Conan Doyle. McLevy sought forensic advice from members of the medical faculty at the University of Edinburgh, where Conan Doyle later studied.

In the late 1990s, the James McLevy Trophy, named after him, was donated by former Detective Superintendent John McGowan to recognise outstanding achievement in crime detection in Scotland.

In popular culture[edit]

BBC Radio 4 has broadcast several series of dramas written by David Ashton and starring Brian Cox as McLevy. While some of the series contain a thread connecting all of that series' stories into one storyline, the elements of each of the stories remain constant: McLevy's single-minded pursuit of and for justice on his beat (the parish of Leith in the city of Edinburgh) no matter which class of people are involved; his frustration with and contempt for "respectability" when the truth about a crime is covered up in order to protect upper-class people involved; his often-stormy but complex (and as of Series 10 "intimate") relationship with Jean Brash, owner and operator of "The Happy Land" (until it was burned down by vigilantes) and later "The Just Land" (so named to annoy McLevy), the "best" brothel in Edinburgh); his equally complex working relationship (and friendship, although neither would ever admit to it) with Constable Martin Mulholland (McLevy's partner in investigations); and his clashes with his long-suffering, class- and politically conscious and wife-dominated superior Lieutenant Robert Roach (who nevertheless realized that McLevy's methods produced the desired results and therefore was not above turning a blind eye and occasionally even backing McLevy).

The main cast includes Siobhan Redmond as Jean Brash, Michael Perceval-Maxwell as Mulholland and David Ashton as Lieutenant Roach; in the 1999 pilot play, Phyllis Logan played Jean and John Paul Hurley played Mulholland.

Other recurring characters include Jessie Nairn (2000–2002, played by Tracey Wiles), Jean Brash's right-hand woman and "Keeper of Keys" of "The Happy Land" and "The Just Land" until she was stabbed to death by a hired killer; Hannah Semple (2003–2012, played by Collette O'Neil), who took over as Jean's "Keeper of Keys" until she had to flee Leith after killing a deranged sword-wielding "client" to protect Jean; Constable Miller (2000–2003, played by Tom Smith), a rather inept constable who was killed in the line of duty preventing an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria (his stationhouse duties were taken over after his death by Constable Ballantyne, played by Finlay McLean); "The Countess" (2002, played by Maureen Beattie), Jean Brash's chief rival in the brothel trade; Donald McIver (played by Andrew Neil), Hannah Semple's former boyfriend and an inveterate gambler who married Hannah in Series 5 (but sadly was later shot and killed when a card game he was playing in was held up by two men with a pistol); and Inspector Alec Dudgeon of the Haymarket district (played by Jamie Newall), whom McLevy despised as both an inefficient officer and being more interested in furthering his own career than in solving crimes.

Pilot 1999[edit]

1. P- 1 Jul 26 99 McLevy (The Afternoon Play)

1st Series 2000[edit]

2. 1- 1 Dec 21 00 For Unto Us
3. 1- 2 Dec 28 00 The Trophy Club
4. 1- 3 Jan 04 01 The Second Shadow
5. 1- 4 Jan 11 01 The Burning Question

2nd Series 2002[edit]

6. 2- 1 Jun 19 02 A Good Walk Spoilt
7. 2- 2 Jun 26 02 Wild Justice
8. 2- 3 Jul 03 02 The Wild Spark
9. 2- 4 Jul 10 02 Stab in the Back

3rd Series 2003[edit]

10. 3- 1 Dec 01 03 Behind the Curtain
11. 3- 2 Dec 08 03 A Voice from the Grave
12. 3- 3 Dec 15 03 The Dark Shadow
13. 3- 4 Dec 22 03 Servant of the Crown

4th Series 2006[edit]

14. 4- 1 Apr 03 06 A Piece of Cake
15. 4- 2 Apr 10 06 The Sea Change
16. 4- 3 Apr 17 06 Sins of the Fathers
17. 4- 4 Apr 24 06 The Devil's Disguise
18. 4- x Dec 25 06 Christmas Special

5th Series 2009[edit]

19. 5- 1 Jan 27 09 To Keep Him Honest
20. 5- 2 Feb 03 09 Picture of Innocence
21. 5- 3 Feb 10 09 The Chosen One
22. 5- 4 Feb 17 09 The Reckoning

6th Series 2009/10[edit]

23. 6- 1 Dec 21 09 A Bolt From the Blue
24. 6- 2 Dec 28 09 End of the Line
25. 6- 3 Jan 04 10 Jack O' Diamonds
26. 6- 4 Jan 11 10 Queen of Spades

7th series 2011[edit]

27. 7- 1 Mar 02 11 The Firebrand
28. 7- 2 Mar 09 11 Dead Reckoning
29. 7- 3 Mar 16 11 Prince of Darkness
30. 7- 4 Mar 23 11 A Distant Death

8th series 2011[edit]

31. 8- 1 Nov 29 11 The Blue Gown
32. 8- 2 Dec 06 11 Flesh and Blood
33. 8- 3 Dec 13 11 A Fine Deception
34. 8- 4 Dec 20 11 The Last Illusion

9th series 2012[edit]

35. 9- 1 Nov 26 12 A Dangerous Remedy
36. 9- 2 Dec 03 12 No Looking Back
37. 9- 3 Dec 10 12 A Pearl in the Oyster
38. 9- 4 Dec 17 12 The Cross-Roads

10th series 2014[edit]

39. 10- 1 Feb 18 14 A Different Path
40. 10- 2 Feb 25 14 The Cat's Claw
41. 10- 3 Mar 04 14 A Sore Convulsion
42. 10- 4 Mar 11 14 A Secret Life

David Ashton has continued McLevy's story in his 2006 book Shadow of the Serpent (ISBN 978-1-904598-70-6); following volumes include Fall From Grace (2007) (ISBN 978-1-84697-050-4), Trick of the Light (2009) (ISBN 978-1-84697-091-1), featuring a young Arthur Conan Doyle, and most recently Nor Shall He Sleep (2012) (ISBN 978-1-84967-251-2), featuring Robert Louis Stevenson.

External links[edit]