Peter Doyle’s Crooks Like Us and a very real forefather of hoodlum noir…

  • Crooks Like Us Peter Doyle-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityI had a hankering after Peter Doyle’s Crooks Like Us book ever since I first saw it on the shelves of a library I was then frequenting a few years ago now… and then it relatively recently tumbled through my door via a fortuitously priced finding (it’s out of print and has generally become a little heavy on the old bank balance if you can find it).

    To quote from elsewhere about the book/its photographs:

    In the 1920s Sydney police began quietly assembling a gallery of the citys most light-fingered, fleet-footed, silver-tongued rogues con artists, magsmen, housebreakers, thugs, gunmen, shoplifters, drug dealers, pickpockets and hooligans. These extraordinary images resurfaced in the 1980s, long after the original paperwork had been lost and the crooks, the cops and all who remembered them had passed on. Based on years of research into police files, court records, newspapers and other sources, Crooks Like Us offers a glimpse into the difficult lives of these fugitive souls what they did, who they hurt, who hurt them, where they came from and, sometimes, where they ended up. Illustrated with rich, emotionally charged police Special Photographs from the Justice & Police Museum, Sydney, Crooks Like Us opens a secret door onto Sydneys hidden histories.

    Crooks Like Us-City Of Shadows-Peter Doyle-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2The characters in the collection look as though they have come straight from central casting – but sent via an agency where there has been astonishing attention to detail and character.

    I know that at the time these were taken, how these people looked and dressed was probably quite day-to-day (for the world they lived and “worked” in) but over the years and decades they have gained something else; the photographs have a genuinely film like, almost too perfectly representing a particular style and early-to-mid-twentieth century hoodlum aesthetic; a very real forefather of noir.

    Crooks Like Us-City Of Shadows-Peter Doyle-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3HANDOUT  DES_COS046.jpgThe book is accompanied by another, City Of Shadows, which alongside the portraits is a somewhat more gritty, hard hitting, not for the faint hearted collection that includes forensic crime scene photographs: tread gently if you should go a-looking.

    Visit the collection of photographs here and here.

    Peruse the books and Peter Doyle’s fiction work here.


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