Francois Vidocq brought crime fighting to a higher plateau,
up from a disorganized and often-negative milieux and into a
a short time, he made one of a gang of smugglers at Ostend,
but soon he was arrested for being without papers,"reports
author Stead. "(Escaping again) he joined a theatrical
troupe as a mime, but the clown became jealous and denounced
him. This time they imprisoned him at Douai, center of the judicial
system of the North...and once again he got away."
Vidocq had the
ultimate story of a fall and redemption. Falling in with a bad crowd
after escaping an unwanted marriage, young Vidocq joined the army and
developed a penchant for dueling. He eventually challenged a superior
and was sought for courtmartial Later, he attacked some soldiers, and
landed himself in jail. This was the start of a long string of sensational
escapes, recaptures, crimes and stories for the popular media.
On a constant run from the
law, Vidocq assumed many identities and several times tried to live
a normal life (similar to the experiences Jean
Valjean has in Les Miserables), but was exposed each
time. Realizing the futility of his situation, he cut a deal with the
police. He would trade information for his liberty.
Notorious in the underworld,
Vidocq was the perfect spy. He inserted himself into the thickest of
plots and delivered the criminals over to justice en masse. This
is parallel to Javert's great success
in fighting crime in Les Miserables.
Vidocq published his memoirs
(or a doctored copy of them, rather), and they became the inspiration
for writers and criminals alike.
On the one hand,
Lacenaire read them, and was inspired
to attempt to learn the criminal trade as Vidocq suggested, from mixing
with the other prisoners while incarcerated.
On the other hand,
memoirs of Vidocq and other criminals served as colorful detail for
those writing about crime, and an insiders guide to the logistical
workings of crime.