Monday, June 27, 2016

Number 1911: Britain’s most wanted

Charley (or Charlie, or more properly Charles) Peace was a real-life criminal in Victorian England. The Daily Mail has this interesting short article with illustrations about Peace, who was a murderer and all around bounder, villain and miscreant in his day. He was also, as the article is headlined, “...the son of a one-legged lion tamer.” (The effect of his father on his later criminal career can only be guessed at.)

The description of Peace in the splash panel, “England’s worst murderer of the 19th century, and perhaps of all time . . . the acme of evil in all lands, in all times!” is pure hyperbole. When the story was published originally in 1948 there were a lot of war criminals of the late world war whose zeal for mass murder was much more the worst “in all lands, in all times.”

I give credit to Sid Greene, the artist, for doing a good job on the period atmospherics of this ripping yarn from Crime Must Pay the Penalty #3. My scans are from a reprint in issue #36 (1954).


Daniel [] said...

It simply compounded the injustice done to William Habron that this story misrepresented his fate, which was to strangle at the end of a hemp rope, for a crime of which he was innocent.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Hi, Pappy, it's been awhile. :D

No, I would not call Peace "The worst murderer" of the 19th Century, nor would I say he was the wisest.
But that line ".. the acme of evil in all lands, in all times!” is very Daily Mail-ish, to say the least.
So this guy was a swindler, a robber, a murderer, a miscreant, and a son of a one-legged lion tamer. And probably a pro-EU sympathiser. That is to say, a bad, BAAD Englishman. :)))

Brian Barnes said...

These crime comics are always fun, and this one is a bit different than the others as Peace basically goes through everything with very little trouble; there's no struggles, he's an unbelievable expect at pistols that -- at the time -- were pretty inaccurate and probably not super reliable -- I kind of miss the police chase!

I love how he marries somebody that the comic goes out of it's way to tell us "is into law and order!"

bzak said...


Why does the nose have to stick out beyond the border in panel 4, page 4? Otherwise, love the art!

Brian Riedel

Pappy said...

Daniel, the comic jibes with what I read on Wikipedia: "William Habron was sentenced to death, later commuted to penal servitude for life."

I thought the sequence of Peace choosing a wife was amusing, at least ("I have seen better faces on some cows") and the lady's name? Mrs. Bovin.

I haven't checked further to see if Peace's 1877 tally of "a hundred robberies and twenty murders," is true, but if so he was a poster boy for never letting a criminal sociopath loose on society.

Pappy said...

Brian, your observation that pistols of the era were "pretty inaccurate and probably not super reliable" is true, just not in fiction. After all, the myth of the Western gunfighter, or the movie cowboy who could outshoot his rival while firing at hip level set the idea of the never-misfiring, deadly accurate pistol in the public mind.

(As an aside, in looking through old magazines at ads for what are commonly called "Saturday night specials," sold through the mail — no background checks at all in those days — for $5.98 or thereabouts, I wonder how many of them exploded in the shooter's hand when the owner tried to use them.

Pappy said...

J D, welcome back.

Hyperbole is attention-getting, but we have to look more closely to see if the statements made are true. The recent mass shooting in Orlando was widely called "the worst mass shooting in U.S. history." Is that true? It could be, but it falls short of the worst mass killings, of which there might be dozens, or maybe hundreds (or THOUSANDS!! or MILLIONS!!! to ape the hyperbolists). The Oklahoma City bombing killed 168, the 9/11 attacks killed thousands, and they are held up as incidents of terror attacks using weapons other than guns, so it could be true that the Orlando killing was the worst mass shooting by a single individual on U.S. soil.

But what such hyperbole does (besides sell newspapers and shock-hosts of radio programs) is make it seem to be some sort of contest. Some crank with a yearning to get fame could right now be thinking, "I think I can do better than that," while he stockpiles ammo and fantasizes of carnage.

Pappy said...

Bzak, looks to me like the artist was having a bit of fun.

Daniel [] said...

I'm quite glad to read that Habron wasn't in fact executed.

As a practical matter, I don't know how to keep the sociopaths from taking control of the political system, let alone how to remove them from the streets. (Now-a-days, some pundits are trying to talk-up the virtues of sociopathic leaders, as it has become clear that some of those leaders most praised by historians have been just that.)

As to Saturday Night Specials, I'd be surprised if none every exploded, but researchers haven't found any cases of serious, self-inflicted injury to the user from a failure. The real problem, then, would be that the user found him- or herself effectively unarmed. (Most of these guns are purchased for self-defense by people of low income, living in areas with higher incidence of violent crime.)

Grant said...

Since I don't really know guns - in or out of pop culture - I wonder if the Saturday Night Special is the only brand to be raked over the coals in a famous song. (As opposed to guns in general.)