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A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun: The Autobiography of a Career Criminal Paperback – 28 Jul 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (28 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141015799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141015798
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


""This is not another lame true crime book written by someone who has spent their life in an office. Razor Smith is the real thing: someone who has lived the life and lived to write about it. A Few Kind Words "is a stunning book, filled with brutality, horror, and truth. It might be the best crime memoir ever written by an actual criminal." --James Frey, author, A Million Little Pieces

From the Author

I was born in London, on Christmas Eve 1960. My parents are both from Dublin, which, under Section 2 of the Irish Constitution, makes me an Irish citizen. Having grown up in London I class myself as London-Irish. My early years were spent in the slums of Islington, before my family were re-housed in a council flat in Lambeth.

At the age of fourteen I was arrested, beaten, and framed for burglary by the police. As a result of this, and despite being cleared by the courts, I drifted into petty crime. After several appearances in juvenile court for theft, TDA, and 'being a suspicious person' (the notorious 'sus' law), I was given a taste of the Short Sharp Shock, 3 months at a detention centre. Her Majesty's Detention Centre, Send, was infamous for its brutal regime, with both physical and mental violence meted out on a daily basis. I rebelled, and learned to harness my absolute hate of 'the system' in order to get me through.

At the age of 16 I appeared at the Old Bailey, on charges of armed robbery, possession of a firearm and GBH. I pleaded guilty and was sentenced the three years detention under Section 53/2 of the CYP Act 1933, the wording of which was "Any young person under the age of 17, who is convicted of a crime that would warrant fourteen years imprisonment, or more, for an adult". 'Though I was serving the equivalent of four borstal sentences back to back, the only place I could be detained was in a closed borstal.

I served my sentence in the gladiator schools of Ashford, Dover, and Rochester borstals, where horrific violence was the norm and the weak and timid became no more than prey. Determined to escape, I seriously assaulted a night watchman and ended up in strip cells and solitary confinement for months, where I finally learned to read and write.

Released in 1980, I gathered a gang around me and set out to take revenge for the years I had been locked up. Gang fights and petty crime became my milieu. After I was seriously beaten by a rival gang, and, having met the love of my life and got her pregnant, I decided to take up serious crime for financial gain. Bank robbery became my career.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s I was sentenced to a total of nineteen years, with hundreds of years in concurrent sentences, for armed robbery, firearms, and prison escape. In prison I began to educate myself. I gained an A-level in Law, an Honours Diploma in freelance journalism, and four Koestler Awards for my writing.

In 1997 I was released on parole, and in 1999 I once again appeared at the Old Bailey and was sentenced to eight life sentences for bank robbery, under the two-strikes act. 'A Few Kind Words and A Loaded Gun' is my first book. I am currently residing at HMP Grendon, and working on 'Fixing It', the follow up. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Walsh on 27 July 2006
Format: Paperback
The increasing ubiquity of the true crime genre on booksellers' shelves is all too often proof positive of the old adage of the impossibility of losing money by underestimating the intelligence of the general public. This book is, for a number of reasons, a notable exception.

To outline the background, the author was born in South London in the early sixties and took the active decision to become a career criminal in the late seventies. Not one to do things by halves, he opted for the premiership of criminal activity and elected to become an armed robber. The book gives a fairly accurate chronological description of his subsequent activities which, in addition to relieving various banks and businesses of their ready cash, also includes a horrific catalogue of excessive violence and half a life detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

The first factor that sets this book apart is that there is no ghost writer; the experiences here are genuinely being described first hand . The second is that, although it does adopt the usual infatuation with the kudos of being a hard man and the supposed criminal code of honour, this is taken less and less as a given as Smith's career progresses. It's safe enough to say that few other books of this type are honest enough to draw out the difference in attitude between welcoming a heavy prison sentence with jokes and laughter whilst sitting with the other hard men in the reception block and dissolving into tears when left alone as the door to the solitary cell closes. The third, and possibly most important factor is that Smith, although habitually treated by the prison system as borderline illiterate, writes with a style and passion that belies the nature of the book. For good or ill, he really can write.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M Keenaghan on 13 Oct 2005
Format: Paperback
South Londoner Noel "Razor" Smith's long history of crime culminated as a member of "The Laughing Bank Robbers", an armed firm known for their "gallows humour" who cracked jokes while collecting their loot - even, on one job, dressing in festive Santa hats and wishing terrified customers and staff a "Merry Christmas". Smith was also part of the Rockabilly scene who with his gang the Balham Wildkatz battled it out with punks, skinheads and other rivals at a time when the various London subcultures were tearing into each other with boots, fists and whatever else was handy.
"A Few Kind Words..." stands head and shoulders above most crime memoirs. Firstly, it is not ghostwritten - Smith discovered a talent for writing whilst behind bars that eventually got him published in national newspapers. Secondly, prison is where he is right now, serving a life sentence (or technically speaking, eight of them). So let's just say that, on top of being well-written, this book has an edge over much of its Real Crime contemporaries in what can often be quite a tacky and superficial genre.
Smith loads his memior with enough raucous mayhem to more-than-satisfy on the entertainment front, but also often pauses for intelligent, analytical reflection on the workings of his criminal mind, and the life he has spent "fashioning the chains that now bind him". Through writing, he says, he has "found a more acceptable way of expressing himself" than via the violence and crime that has taken away his most basic human right: freedom.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Stranik on 22 Jun 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having left South West London twenty five years ago I have, like most of us, wondered what the kids I grew up with are doing now. Up until around `81' I would go back to visit every couple of weeks and the conversation would invariably turn to "Who's in jail?" "Who just got out?" Eventually the question would become "Who's dead?" "Who's alive?"

I remember one of my best friends Noel showing me a paper clipping from the South London Press reporting on his failed stick up of an off-license in Balham. By 1980 that was the way the wind was blowing. As kids we were always involved in some life threatening escapade or another, but it was more for kicks and only occasionally criminal. But by the time half my friends were in remand centres or borstals I knew I was well out of it.

So although it came as a massive surprise, it really shouldn't have, when I recently discovered that the aforementioned Noel is now better known as Razor Smith and is currently serving life for armed robbery.

Smith has shot, slashed and robbed his way into gangland legend. Before his life sentence he was the frightener in a gang of four known as the `Laughing Bank Robbers' who carried out a string of bank raids around South London, he has fifty eight criminal convictions to his name and has now chosen to write his autobiography - "A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun."

Described by G.Q magazine as "One of the most powerful and intelligent crime memoirs we've ever read" and "extraordinary" by the Guardian, I just thought it plain surreal to be standing in the middle of Waterstones seeing my name included in the `lavishly blood splattered' memoirs of a major career criminal.
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