The account of a police officer in Singapore from the 1930s, full of stories of law-enforcement. Fascinating window into the underworld of Singapore from the 1930s.
Mr. Alec Dixon is one more witness to the verity of the remark that truth is stranger than fiction. In “Singapore Patrol” he gives a plain but skilful account of his experiences in the Straits Settlements as a detective officer, packing into a few years a remarkable amount of adventure, the nature of which is little suspected by even us who live closer to the Far East than Europeans or Americans, and should hear more about what goes on there. But, as Mr. Dixon points out, many things in the life of Singapore are taken so much for granted that only the most sensational incidents get reported abroad. For instance, not long ago a British steamer was pirated and pillaged by Chinese desperadoes who travelled as passengers, and because the haul was large and some of the officers were killed, the outside world did hear about it. But Mr. Dixon’s list of similar piracies that have taken place in recent years covers a page, and he describes the thing as a regular and profitable industry. No adequate means can be devised for combating the thieves and murderers, since these ships carry hundreds of Chinese passengers between Singapore and their native country, with few to watch them, and, in spite of official vigilance, arms are easily secreted abroad. The writer was himself engaged in the attempt to check piracy, but found it singularly futile.
The city itself, with its variegated population, its Communists and dope-runners and gunmen, presented unique problems to the small force of detectives which was all that
the Government would maintain, ably led as they were. One man, such as Mr. Dixon, had a multitude of occupations, and a number of people and districts to watch. Riots,
murders, robberies, occurred with alarming frequency; small credit was given for success in tracing offenders, loud blame greeted unavoidable failures. Mr. Dixon’s duties, then, took him into some queer places and involved him in some ugly incidents; but though he writes chiefly of the underworld and the night life of Singapore, he has much to say in appreciation of the country and its inhabitants. He made many friends with Chinese and other Orientals, and especially Malays, an ancient and admirable race. He spent part of his leave in a jungle tour, which left indelible memories of the beauty and charm of the Peninsula, He attended native ceremonies and festivals as an honoured guest, and met many queer characters in isolation, including one man who had known Conrad during his time in the Straits, but was unaware till given “Almayer’s Folly” that he had truthfully used his experience and was regarded as a great writer. Every aspect of life in town and village is described, and there could be few more interesting accounts of the region. Mr. Dixon is under no temptation to exaggerate, for he has only too much to cram into his book, and all of it of an unusual nature.
– from The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 14 Dec 1935.