Bulman-detective

Detective Sergeant George Kitchener Bulman is a fictional policeman created by novelist Kenneth Royce. The character appears in a series of books about The XYY Man (semi-reformed cat burglar Spider Scott).

Bulman was brought to life on the small screen by actor Don Henderson. With his scruffy look and eccentric demeanor, the character resembled a villain of the Victorian era, rather than a modern-day police detective, or latter-day private eye.

Origins

In the novels, the character’s name is initially given as Alfred “Alf” Bulman.

Bulman is presented as a corrupt officer – though the only example given is the method he uses to achieve promotion to sergeant. Bulman earns his stripes by persuading down-and-outs to confess to unsolved robberies, in return for a prison sentence which would put them indoors during the coldest months of winter!

First Transition to Television

The books were turned into a Granada TV series in the mid-1970s, with actor Don Henderson playing the police detective – now dubbed George Bulman.

In the series, Bulman lives for the day when he can put his nemesis Spider Scott (played by Stephen Yardley) back behind bars. Both Bulman and his sidekick Detective Constable Derek Willis (actor Dennis Blanche) are thwarted at every turn.

Over time, the officers develop some grudging sympathy and respect for Scott, as they discover how he and they have been used by the Secret Service.

Bulman was originally portrayed as mildly eccentric, wearing fingerless woolen gloves, using a nasal inhaler, and trying to ‘better’ himself by engaging in further education. The detective was prone to showing off his learning with a pretentious attitude that made him look foolish.

An Ongoing Concern: “Strangers”

The Bulman character proved popular with viewers, and, together with Willis, was given a spin-off series called “Strangers”, which saw the detectives transferred from London to the north-west of England.

During its five-year run, Bulman’s eccentricities were increased. He was given a propensity for keeping his belongings in plastic shopping bags, and a pet hamster named Flash Gordon.

It was in “Strangers” that Bulman’s middle name was revealed to be Kitchener.

Increasingly his advanced learning was used less to make him look pretentious and laughable. Instead, it underlined a Zen-like wisdom and otherworldliness.

Bulman also leapt in rank, moving from Detective Sergeant to Detective Chief Inspector in a single bound.

Here’s a YouTube promo, for the show’s first season:

Private Citizen, Private Eye

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During the mid-1980s the character returned to television, in “Bulman”.

In this revamp, a disillusioned Bulman leaves the police, to work as a private investigator.

Ever the eccentric, the character used detection as a sideline, actually making his living by repairing clocks. He kept a model railway set-up in his office, and wore a T-Shirt bearing an illustration of William Shakespeare, with the inscription ‘Will Power’.

The private detective also gained a female sidekick, in the shape of feisty young Scotswoman Lucy McGinty (played by Siobhan Redmond). The actress would later achieve fame in the acclaimed BBC Television series “Between The Lines”, as detective Maureen “Mo” Connell of the Complaints Investigation Bureau (equivalent to Internal Affairs Division, in the USA) of London’s Metropolitan Police.

Ironically mirroring the post-prison career of Spider Scott, Bulman and his assistant Lucy were often coerced or tricked into doing clandestine and dangerous work for the Secret Service.

Spin-Off Literary Success

At the height of the show’s success, Kenneth Royce returned to his Bulman character by writing two more XYY Man novels (“The Crypto Man” (1984) and “The Mosley Receipt” (1985)) and a Bulman novel, “No Way Back” (a.k.a. “Hashimi’s Revenge”) in 1986.

In the 1990s, Royce followed with “The Judas Trail” (1996) and “Shadows” (1996).

Royce’s latter-day Bulman differs greatly from the television version.

Alfred George Bulman (as opposed to George Kitchener Bulman) has, by “The Crypto Man” in 1985, risen to Detective Superintendent in the Security Services section of the Metropolitan Police. His television alternative never made it above Detective Chief Inspector, before becoming a private investigator.

And That Was All…

The “Bulman” series ended in 1987. Henderson obtained the rights for TV use of the character, but got caught up with other projects. The actor died in 1997 before he was able to interest producers in a new series.

Our series is ongoing.

Hope you’ll join me, for the next installment.

Till then.

Peace.

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