Saturday, 22 March 2014

"The Last Gangster"

This memoir from a sixties london villain, Charlie Richardson, is actually doing soundly in the bestselling charts, unlike many of the other criminal memoirs.  This genre is now a dying breed, as many publishers are no longer interested in selective recollections of old villains.  Plus some have come out that are complete fiction.  But in the minds of these people, their tomes are bestsellers, showing just how much their adoring public love them.  Right.  However, the book about Richardson, who died last year, did receive a critical savaging in Private Eye.  Of course you can quote sales figures and say "what about that then?"  But the truth is, these books do cater to basically the lowest common denominator.  The comment in P.E. is that men are not great fiction readers and buyers but will buy a different kind of fiction.  Seems a reasonable argument in my book, though I have bought a great deal of these books, new & second hand.  There, I put my hands up.  Guilty m`lud.  However, I have long moved away from this.

    Truth is always hard to obtain from a criminal; they were never caught fair and square.  They were always fitted up, because they were far too clever for the cops.  Never lost a fight and were always big players in the criminal world.  The cops who fitted them up were worse than the bent ones who took money from them.  They tend to think that they controlled bent cops, rather than having to bribe them to stop them putting them away.  Who was controlling who then?  In the film "Charlie" starring Luke Goss & Leslie Grantham, the film, in my view, is an apology for Richardson and his associates, which at the end, spells out the criminal records of the men who turned on them.  There is a surveillance photo of one of the men given a beating by them.  He is wearing dark glasses but you can easily see a swollen face.  In a documentary on them, one of the others still stands by his testimony.  This was Benny Coulson.  Yes, big bad Benny and the others stitched up cuddly Charlie, Eddie, Frankie and the rest.  One former gang member, John Bradbury, long living in South Africa, says that they did torture people and he took part in it.

    Richardson claimed that he had no need to torture as he could give them a deadly stare.  You could to people who could not stand up for themselves or were minor villains with no heavy backup.  Not everybody caves in to intimidation;  it can only go so far.  When it looks like somebody is not going to stand for something, whether they are villains or ordinary people, their only recourse is to threaten their wives & children - Cor blimey guv, we never do things like that - or get the bent cops on the payroll to take care of them.  Who is the grass now?  There was a villain operating around West Yorkshire from the 50`s to the 70`s, a streetfighter and heavy villain.  He always carried a gun.  If he was honest, would he have said "If anybody tried to stop me, I would have plugged the fucker!"  No, it would have been, "I shot him by accident.  it was not meant to happen"  Then why carry a firearm?  One man who knew him, and himself was a tough nut, said of him, "I did not like him because he always carried a gun!"  Honesty is hard to come by from criminals.  I once tried to write the memoirs of a local criminal who claimed that it would be the most honest ever written.  It was full of lies, immersing himself into other peoples escapades, playing down his character, but thankfully it never appeared in print, and gave me a very harsh lesson in what these people are like.