The Life of a Scilly Sergeant by Colin Taylor was published by Century, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House in 2016.
It has just over 304 pages and is available in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, and even on Audible.
It is the story of Colin Taylor’s time on the islands as the senior policeman. The Police spend relatively short spells on the island and if the book is to be believed it is not a position that is much sought after. He has spent a two year stint on the islands as a constable some years earlier, and returned some years later as a Sergeant. This time with an entire family in tow.
Publishing houses across the world have been struggling to come to terms with the modern digital world and the power of social media for some time. So the fact that Sergeant Taylor had already built up a sizeable following on Facebook will have no doubt helped in getting a contract with a major publisher. But even with that, this is an enjoyable read that is worth its place on your shelves.
The Cover of The Life of a Scilly Sergeant
I know we should not judge a book by its cover, but I am afraid I did so. And I did so quite harshly.
The Life of a Scilly Sergeant has a cover that makes perfect sense once you have read the book. But beforehand it looks like a fairly desperate attempt to be funny. Colin Taylor sits on a child’s bike, with a fairly obviously photoshopped background behind him.
I also have to add at this point that the obvious play on words: “Scilly” = “Silly” is one that I am thoroughly fed up with. If you have ever attempted to speak to anyone about the islands then I have no doubt that you have likely had your fill as well. However the islanders have no hesitation in using it to market their goods. And so I probably shouldn’t begrudge Taylor titling his book “The Life of a Scilly Sergeant”.
Colin Taylor’s Voice
Sergeant Colin Taylor does not write the way stereotypes of policemen do. You will be sadly disappointed if you are expecting clumsy laboring prose. Taylor has a nice voice that is easy to read and captures the moment well.
From time to time it is clear he is trying too hard to be funny and doesn’t quite hit the mark. But there are plenty of times when he hits the mark right in the bullseye.
This is a book that is surprisingly difficult to categorise. It is the real life story of a policeman, but it is most definitely not a crime book. It is all about the Isles of Scilly, but it is not a guide book. What it is, is a lovely example of the type of lifestyle book typified by Peter Mayle in A Year in Provence.
It is a gentle look at life on the islands that we love through the eyes of a man who is perfectly positioned to do them justice. He clearly loves the islands himself, after all he lived there for many years. But because of his job he was forced to maintain a slightly objective view.
He doesn’t mock the islanders. The person he reserves the most mockery for – apart from the odd stag do participant, is himself. His tale of managing to lock himself in his own cells is quite lovely. And the story of getting called to deal with a fight while wearing his pyjamas under his uniform is extremely endearing.
The whole of “The life of a Scilly Sergeant” has the feel of a parent telling us an amusing story about one of their children. There is clearly affection there, but they are happy for us to enjoy the crazy things they have done.
If you love the islands then this is definitely worth a read. It has the feel of a first book, but a good first book at that. I do hope Taylor writes more, because it can only get better. And he’s already in a good place.
The Life of a Scilly Sergeant has an honest authenticity to it that is often missing from books written by people who do not live on the islands. It allows those of us that only visit Scilly a brief look behind the curtain. But in a way that only makes us like it even more.
If you’re expecting high prose then avoid this book. Colin Taylor is no Bill Bryson or Pete McArthy, but don’t let that put you off. If you love Scilly, and want something to entertain you for a day or two then I thoroughly recommend it.
I suppose it is the done thing to give the book some kind of rating. So I am going to rate it in terms of Isles of Scilly Beaches.
My own Unique Rating System
The Life of a Scilly Sergeant by Colin Taylor is a Pellistry. It isn’t quite up to the standards of the Bar on Agnes, or Rushy Bay on Bryher. But it is still reliably good, and better than an awful lot of other beaches.
Have you read it? Do you agree with me? If you haven’t, you can get it by clicking on the amazon link below. (This is an affiliate link, if you buy the book using it, I will get a few pence. I will use this to contribute to hosting this website).