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North Soho 999: A True Story of Gun-crime in 1940s London [Paperback]

Paul Willetts
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 May 2007
'North Soho 999' is a surprisingly topical non-fiction account of the murder that came to symbolise the crimewave threatening to overwhelm post-war London. Set in bomb-scarred London in 1947, it is the untold story of a Soho robbery and shooting carried out by a 17 year-old and his two young accomplices. The crime sparked worldwide press coverage and was associated with a single, potent image; a photograph of the dying man stretched across the pavement. Much of the press reaction at the time focused on the breakdown of law and order, rising youth crime, the spread of illegal firearms and the deterrent value of capital punishment - concerns that are frequently echoed today. 'North Soho 999' concentrates on the hunt for the killers and the subsequent trial, with Willetts' approaching the story very much as Truman Capote did in his classic, 'In Cold Blood'. One of this country's biggest and most extraordinary murder-hunts, it brought together the pioneering forensic pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury; the hangman, Albert Pierrepoint; the crusading journalist, Duncan Webb; and the Scotland Yard detective, Bob Fabian whose dazzling detective work led to the creation of 'Fabian of the Yard', the world's first hit television cop show. It also led to a major appeal by The Daily Mail,on behalf of the murder victim's family, questions in Parliament and the making of the film, 'The Blue Lamp', a huge box office success starring Dirk Bogarde. Paul Willettts' last book, 'Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia', the biography of Julian Maclaren-Ross, received wide critical acclaim and was selected as a 'Book of the Year' by several national newspapers. Paul Willetts lives in Norwich.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904587453
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904587453
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I really have to take my hat off to Paul Willetts; he has meticulously researched a classic case of criminal investigation into a murder which shocked post-war London; three young tearaways botched an armed robbery at a jeweller's shop, ran off and were confronted by Alec D'Antiquis, a motor mechanic who was married with six children. He was callously shot dead and Mr. Willetts, using the original witness statements tendered to the Old Bailey, plus newspaper coverage and a number of other sources, has put together a fascinating tale.

It was this case, more than any other, which brought Detective Superintendent Bob Fabian (of the Yard) to the publics attention; as a result, Fabian wrote the first of three books, of which the first, Fabian of the Yard was a best-seller, launched the television series of the same name and inspired the classic film, The Blue Lamp.

It is difficult to know how Mr. Willetts could have probed any deeper to have made this exciting book any more authentic; I don't believe he could.

A superb book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Grain Detail. 23 Jun 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book speeds along faster then the wireless cars used by the Met in their heyday. It grips from start to finish and you won't want to put it down until the last page. Fabian and his team work tirelessly to capture a gang of 1940's hoodlums, fresh from the doldrums of WW2 who now lead a life of crime, armed and dangerous, a worrying crime trend at the time.(sound familiar to today?) As you read in minute detail how the crime was committed, investigated and finally prosecuted, you might get bored, DON'T,this fine grain detail is as meticulous as the police interviews with the suspects and it helps sharpen the picture of long gone London in your head.In your minds eye the scenes are only in Black and White, like the photos used as support to the riveting text. You must remind yourself, this is a true account and not a work of fiction, not solved in two hours on TV by and Inspector and his side kick. Full credit to Willets, he writes like he was a copper himself, part of the Fabian team, double breasted de-mob suit, trilby, raincoat and obligatory fag hanging from his mouth. Great stuff, well done!.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gunned down in cold blood 8 May 2007
Format:Paperback
This is an absorbing and brilliantly-researched account of a notorious (but now forgotten) killing in shabby post-war London. Paul Willetts has drilled deep into newspaper archives, police records and cultural history to evoke the painstaking and dogged pursuit of the armed gang who execute an innocent bystander following a raid on a jewellers' near the Tottenham Court Road and are finally nailed by the legendary Bob Fabian - "Fabian of the Yard". In the course of the investigation we run into the executioner Albert Pierrepoint, who (incredibly enough) happens to be passing the scene of the shooting. In an absorbing digression Willetts links Pierrepoint to none other than film star Ingrid Bergman, a fine nugget of trivia.

The author has a keen sense of the period and a seemingly endless knowledge of police procedure of the time - yet this doesn't slow down the headlong pace of the investigation - red-eyed detectives go without sleep, fuelled by coffee and [...] and a determined sense of duty. There's no glamour at all, of course - but plenty of grit, hard-boiled characters and downbeat
settings. The twists and turns of Fabian's investigation have all the hallmarks of fiction (the case was later filmed as THE BLUE LAMP, marking the screen debut of Dirk Bogarde), and this factual account with authentic dialogue often reads like a film script.

More than just a painstaking reconstruction of a particular crime, the book is also an evocative snapshot of a lost city of bombsites, pawnbrokers, greasy spoons and smoke-filled pubs, coppers' narks, detectives in belted raincoats and - of course - peroxide blondes. Willetts' eye for the telling detail is always sharp and sometimes uncanny, and I warmly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in postwar British culture, in real-life detective work and in good writing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into 1940's London crime scene 15 Nov 2008
By The Historian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is about a violent holdup in a jewelry shop in North Soho, London in the late 1940's and how the police solved the crime. It details the lives of the criminals who committed the holdup and the lives of the police who track them down and the effect of the crime on all invovled. It is also a good commentary on the austure economic times of post war London with a look over the London criminal world and how it evovled into such a violent, ruthless and hard atmosphere with violent crime widespread. These were tough times to live in and the author does a fine job in presenting it to the reader
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