The British Empire Library

A Beat Around the Bush: Memoirs of a Former Kenya Policeman 1953 - 1963

by Alastair Tompkins

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by a Former Kenyan Policeman
In the Foreword, the author rightly states that "in these days of so-called 'political correctness', the term 'colonial' has taken on connotations of oppression and even racism". The many stories contained in this book will clearly illustrate that the rule of law during these difficult times was applied and upheld irrespective of race, colour or creed. Sadly the same cannot now be said of several former African colonies.

As a raconteur, the author succeeds in entertaining and informing the reader. His recollections of his Police service are described modestly, humorously and in an easy-to-read style. It was because of a promise made to his terminally ill cousin, who always enjoyed and never tired of his stories, that the book was written. I thought the tribute to his wife, Pauline, for her dedication to his effort was particularly fitting. Sadly, this is often overlooked.

Kenya was home to a multi-ethnic population boasting the most spectacular scenery and wildlife. The author does justice to Police work that was varied, dangerous and ever challenging and his activities in combating the Mau Mau insurrection makes compelling reading. Most of the book is taken up with accounts of the many extraordinary situations he and his former colleagues found themselves in, and these are presented with enthusiasm, wit, interest and with very little self-indulgence.

I have read many books on colonial service, and this is one to be recommended. It may not be remarkable but it is entertaining; a very good read, full of insights and vivid memories that will raise many a laugh, as it did for me.

The author has managed to write an eminently readable book. It is enjoyable and absorbing; a book to savour and difficult to put down.

British Empire Book
Alastair Tompkins
Woodfield Publishing


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