"Violence is a messy business". Bernard O'Mahoney's words don't do justice to the casual brutality that litters his side of the Rettendon murders story. And justice, as opposed to man-made law, is his pre-occupation throughout. Standing toe-to-toe with Tony Thompson's account, Bloggs 19, what drives O'Mahoney's uneasy narrative is the belief that the two men jailed for the murder of three Firm members are innocent. One would be tempted to say that hoodlums assassinating hoodlums is itself a form of natural justice, and that Mick Steele and Jack Whomes were hardly angels, but that panders to the vengeful amorality endemic in that world. O'Mahoney was head doorman at Raquels nightclub in Basildon, where the ecstasy tablet was procured which killed Leah Betts. The dead girl's father holds O'Mahoney primarily responsible for her death, as he was aware of the drug dealing in the club. The first edition of this book, called "So This Is Ecstasy?", was initially withdrawn after Paul Betts objected to the use of the now-famous image of Leah on a life-support machine. Leah is one of the "victims" to whom the book is dedicated, while O'Mahoney's coldly staring eyes now fix you from the cover.
From Brooklyn to Basildon, tales of aggression, loyalty, squabbles and double-dealing swagger fascinate "straight people", many of whom derive a voyeuristic, vicarious thrill. O'Mahoney's flat flow of anecdotes, in which much is left unsaid, builds towards Leah's death, and his own exit from Firm life, with a grim, despairing predictability, but it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the man from the self-glamorising existence of debt-collectors, doormen and gangsters, and the culture of blame and punishment it promotes. In one telling incident, David Arnell, the quietest of doormen, suddenly snaps and badly beats up a customer, illustrating how the atmosphere of violence proves the strongest narcotic of all. O'Mahoney is also the author of Soldier of the Queen, a superior account, detailing his time serving in Northern Ireland, and which fills in much of the personal detail lacking here. Without that, this book-of-the-film-of-the-book, despite its lurid fascination, ultimately punches below its weight. --David Vincent
ESSEX BOYS is the brand new edition of the shocking bestseller known as SO THIS IS ECSTASY?. It is the true story of the rise of one of the most violent and successful criminal gangs of the 90's whose reign of terror was finally terminated when the three leaders were brutally murdered in their Range Rover one winter's evening. On their way they had built the drug-dealing organisation that which supplied the pill that killed Leah Betts. They were responsible for a wave of intimidation, beatings and murder. Until, it seems, they took one step too far. Now there is compelling evidence that the men convicted of shooting the dead men are innocent. Which means the real murderers are still at large. Bernard O'Mahoney was a key member of what has been one of the most feared gangs of the decade. His inside account of their cold-blooded violence reveals that facts can be more terryfing than fiction.