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One Blood: Inside Britain's New Gang Culture [Paperback]

John Heale
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 2009
In 2008, the UK saw over 70 brutal killings of teenagers by teenagers. Knife crime --and now gun crime -- affects every community, and Britains' gangs have changed in recent years, becoming more aggressive, more territorial -- and younger. One Blood is the first full-length study of Britain's new gang culture. The author has talked to dozens of gang members from high-ranking to low, and every chapter is based on first-hand testimonies of their day-to-day reality, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive analysis of what gang life does to society and to individuals. With a strong narrative that travels the country from London to Liverpool and beyond, One Blood provides a terrifying account of what life is like for those who belong to a gang. It also investigates how the authorities are attempting to combat the problem, and analyses the social evils of which gang life is a symptom, not a cause. Fearless, uncompromising and compulsively readable, this explosive book is an abiding portrait of an unfortunate section of British society, how it ended up this way, and what can be done to help it.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (6 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847392814
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847392817
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`He talks to many gang members and former members, but is never voyeuristic. It is a welcome relief from the majority of journalistic coverage, which seems only interested in angelic victims and evil perpetrators' --Independent

`Heale offers a powerful critique of the various, either enforcement-driven, or pathology-informed, policy alternatives, periodically reminding the reader of the need to understand the socio-economic production of gangland before trying to grasp the ways in which people have come to live their lives there' --TLS

About the Author

John Heale is the pseudonym of an investigative journalist. He worked on television documentaries in the early 2000s, before freelancing for newspapers and magazines including The Times and The Telegraph. In 2007 he wrote One Blood as a response to what he saw as misleading coverage of youth crime in Britain. Since then he has lectured at the National Police Improvement Agency and provided consultancy services to a number of voluntary organisations. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read and insightful analysis 29 Aug 2008
This is a fantastically well-written insight in to Britain's gangs. Heale has conducted some fascinating (and frankly extremely brave) interviews with those figures at the heart of gang culture. This could have been written simply as a chapter-by-chapter account of these interviews, but Heale's novelistic style makes this a truly gripping, and at times traumatic, read. One Blood could also have sensationalised Britain's gangs, but it provides a very real, intelligent and mature account of gang life and an intriguing analysis of the problems associated with it. Indeed, it is often the casual and arbitrary nature of violence in this chaotic world that will shock the reader most of all.
Having finished the book, your perceptions of gang culture and the solutions to its problems will be turned on their head. Society appears to be misinterpreting the very nature of 'gangs' and until we understand that it is often the chaos, rather than order, of gang life that is feeding violence, the situation can only get worse. Heale has the courage to offer solutions but I suspect that his greatest contribution will be to bring greater awareness and understanding of this anarchic world.
Heale is a very talented writer and as a work of non-fiction alone this would have been a staggeringly good read. That it is non-fiction makes One Blood an extremely important book on a subject that has become one of the biggest issues in Britain today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ahead of its time 25 Aug 2011
By Lucy
First a warning: it's a slow-burning book. Don't read it if you want constant thrills and spills. Agree with commentators who say at times it reads a too much like a sociology essay. But as the author says in the intro - that's the point, because gangs coverage in the media at the time was hysterical.

So much of what he says turns out to be prescient. If you follow his thesis through and look at what happened in inner cities in 2011 it stacks up: in one section he all but predicts the riots. If you want to understand the true nature of gangs, this is an excellent place to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, humane, myth-busting 20 Aug 2009
This is a very good book. Its strength lies in Heale's refusal to judge or dehumanise the people he interviews and studies. Yet nor is he a glamouriser or apologist for the gangster lifestyle. He is engaged, empathetic, humane and balanced. Reading this book reminded me of watching The Wire. Most importantly, Heale persuasively argues that the gang phenomenon is the societal consequence of the appalling polarisation of wealth and opportunity that began in Britain in the 1980s and has continued - in fact, accelerated - ever since. That's what politicians and policy-makers don't want to hear. No wonder Tony Blair crassly blames it all on the black community. But the real culprits, Heale argues, are poverty and disadvantage. In cities where the poorest people happen to be white, so are the gangs. My only criticism is that Heale's prose can be a little flat and humdrum, but he might argue that it fits his anti-sensationalist tone. Highly recommended, nevertheless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 21 Mar 2013
By Dave
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Quite factual book and a good account of real life stories.

Well written and interesting, but not as gripping as expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One blood - four stars 16 Aug 2012
A gripping and shocking look at the gang culture of Britain. The book covers the reasons why, politically, socially, economically and morally why gangs not only form but why they hold such sway and influence over our society.

The book is easy to read, there are points in it that sound like an academic essay and can be quite heavy going but these are the pieces that carry the most weight when summing up the overall argument.

Heale is not sentimental about his subject nor does he glamourise and play up to the tags and reputations of the people he interviews. The book is a well balanced and convincing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worrying, fascinating, honest! Buy it! 12 April 2011
By Jen
I bought this book on a bit of a whim since I didn't know much about the gang problems in our country, and I am so glad I did. Every other page I was putting the book down and re-telling what I'd just read to my family! I was shocked to discover just how much gang activity goes unreported in the UK alone, and just how powerful these street gangs are.

It is clear when reading the book that Heale has put real effort into thoroughly researching the problems with UK gangs, and the book is full of anecdotes, interviews with gang members, youth workers and police, as well as explaining how the media portrays certain issues in contrast to the reality.

I could barely put this book down. Although there is perhaps a little too much emphasis on the ideologies of gang life and possible solutions for stopping it for my liking, the book is very balanced and geographically accurate. It doesn't scare-monger, and overall I found it honest, scary, shocking, and ,overall, fascinating.

It reflects upon high profile cases that any reader will remember, as well as the (staggeringly) numerous unreported cases, and I would urge everyone to buy it - it can only be a good thing that awareness is raised about this growing phenomenon in the UK.
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