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The Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century: The Definitive Account [Hardcover]

Nick Russell-Pavier , Stewart Richards
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Jan 2013

£2.6 million stolen in 46 minutes, prison sentences totalling 378 years, 23 criminals, countless victims.

In the early hours of Thursday, 8 August 1963 at Sears Crossing near Cheddington in Buckinghamshire, £2.6 million (£45 million today) in unmarked £5, £1 and 10 shilling notes was stolen from the Glasgow to London mail train in a violent and daring raid which took forty-six minutes. Quickly dubbed 'the Crime of the Century', it has captured the imagination of the public and the world's media for fifty years, taking its place in British folklore. Ronnie Biggs, Bruce Reynolds and Buster Edwards became household names and their accounts have fed the myths and legends of 'The Great Train Robbery'.

But what really happened?

This definitive account dismantles the myths and strips away the sensational headlines to reveal a flawed, darker and more complex story. The crime, the police investigation, the trial, two escapes from high-security prisons, and an establishment under siege are all laid bare in astonishing detail for an epic tale of crime and punishment.

Fifty years later, here is the story set out in full for the first time -- a true-life crime thriller, and also a vivid slice of British social history.

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The Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century: The Definitive Account + The Great Train Robbery: The Untold Story from the Closed Investigation Files + The Autobiography of a Thief: The Man Behind The Great Train Robbery
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (10 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297864394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297864394
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


our fascination with the Great Train Robbery shows no sign of fading. It's Britain's real-life Wizard of Oz - no matter how familiar the tale, we can never resist savouring it just one more time... This well-written book also tackles the question of why the crime still holds our attention (THE SPECTATOR)

This racing read reveals a strangely seductive lost world (THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

For the robbers who lost their liberty, all they had left was the myth of a brilliant crime. But that myth is comprehensively blown away by this thorough and often gripping book (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

With hindsight, the irony is that the Great Train Robbery was not a harbinger of the Swinging Sixties, but rather, with its cast of cops and criminals in matching trilbies, a reminder of the old Britain - class-bound and violent yet still strangely innocent - that was about to be swept away (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

a cool analysis of a violent and daring raid that still frustrates investigators and fascinates aficionados of big-time crime (SAGA MAGAZINE)

The idea that the great train robbery was a masterpiece of planning and execution by the cream of Britain's villains has been strangely persistent. In fact, as Nick Russell-Pavier and Stewart Richards' fascinating, if mildly obsessive, new book proves, this was always a myth that handily suited everybody involved: police, media and the criminals themselves (DAILY MAIL)

compelling...reveals failings in the initial investigation, but also in the execution of the robbery (CHOICE)

This well researched book sets out the real story in great detail. If you want to know everything there is to know about this crime I can definitely recommend this book. (Sue Lord MYSTERY PEOPLE, VOLUME 2, ISSUE 7)

Book Description

Definitive account of the famous 1963 Great Train Robbery - and its aftermath.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Train Robbery 11 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a really well researched book about the biggest cash robbery in British history. In 1963 a gang of sixteen men robbed a mail train of over 2.5 million pounds - a staggering amount of money at that time. The authors take us through the robbery in detail, addressing all the myths and legends that have grown up since the event, including the suggestion the 'gentlemen' robbers never intended to seriously hurt the train driver Jack Mills (it is shown from previous crimes that some members of the gang had used violence before), who masterminded the robbery and how well planned the heist actually was. In fact, there was such complacency by both British Railways and Royal Mail that the security on the train was, well, non existent - not even bars on the windows or proper locks on the doors. In the early sixties there was a gangland culture and violent crime was certainly not unknown, so it is surprising that nobody had attempted such a crime before.

Following the actual robbery, the book follows the gang to their hideout and then examines the police response to what happened. In many ways, the book claims that the police were more "Dad's Army" than the professional and efficient network they suggested were hunting down the criminals. When the hideout was finally found, two policeman visited the premises on a bike. Luckily, the gang had long since fled, as the prospect that could have faced them might have been sixteen, possibly armed, and dangerous men. As the police attempted to locate their criminals, the criminals in question attempted to evade arrest - making the scenes after the crime like some kind of crazy Keystone Cops chase around the country.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A READ! 27 Feb 2013
I really wasn't prepared for an account of the Great Train Robbery to be quite so gripping. This factual account (of arguably one of the most incredible events of recent history) has the flow of a fast-paced novel tied with the accurate and in-depth information of an encyclopaedia.
I would recommend this book to anyone...especially in the year of the Great Train Robbery's 50th anniversary!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A WELL RESEARCHED READ 27 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What was surprising about The Great Train Robbery was that it actually worked. It was well planned and in the end well carried out but luck played a crucial part. So many things went wrong - things that at the time and even afterwards the gang were not aware of. Like the cutting of the telephone wires to stop anyone phoning for assistance. This immediately alerted the telephone exchange that there was a fault on the lines and caused a technician to be sent to the area to investigate. And then there was the plan to put a glove over the green light on two of the signals to stop them being seen. The gang member whose job it was to conceal one of these lights had the bright idea that it would be easier to unscrew the bulb than to push a glove over it. Bad move. The removal of the bulb immediately set off an alarm in the signal cabin informing the signalman that one of the signals was faulty. A railwayman was sent to check it out. Luckily for the robbers - and perhaps even more luckily for the railwayman - he arrived after the gang had departed.

When the train was eventually stopped it was necessary for it to be driven about half a mile to a point where the gang could unload it. This had been planned-for in advance and one of the gang was a train driver. However, as soon as he was on the footplate he realised that he was unfamiliar with that particular type of locomotive and did not know how to drive it. Panic ensued before it was decided to drag the original driver, Jack Mills - who had been coshed and was lying injured in the back of the cab- back to the controls to drive the train himself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellently argued and non biased 25 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There was nothing in this book I disliked. It begins almost at the robbery with the only earlier situation described being the BOAC wage snatch a few years earlier where some of the Train Robbers were a participants. I think I would have liked to see some synopsis of the earlier lives of those involved, what brought them together and whilst it looks as though there was little planning, a description of what planning there was would have been helpful.

The robbery itself and the activities at Leatherslade Farm are well described but for me the best part was the weeks following the robbery and the description of the trial. Whilst forensic evidence would be better today and would have nailed the robbers to such a point as they may have pleaded guilty, if the evidence available in 1964 had been presented to a present day court I doubt there would have been as many convictions. It was so flimsy in some of the cases.

However apart from William Boal it did look as though those convicted were guilty from the stories told afterwards so acquittals would have been a travesty. The whole pursuit, trial and sentences were a symptom of the establishment holding on to its power over so called working classes at a time when the falling apart of the McMillan government had demonstrated their fallibility and in double standards.

But an excellent read all round.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars detailed and well researched
There have been many books about the great train robbery. Some were written in haste, and others lack the precision and rigour that is evident in this one. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Flightcrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
a really riveting read, you will not want to put the book down.
Published 1 month ago by P. Cherrington
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read.
Bought this for my Husband, He enjoyed this version of the Robbery as there were many Facts unknown to him.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs. D. Maguire
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a really fascinating and definitive account of this amazing crime. Very well written and really easy to follow.
Published 4 months ago by Mr. N. W. MacDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century.
This book is a must if you need to get an insight of the true story. Very comprehensive detail about the build up to the robbery and everything thing that happened as a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by EkStrodl
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
Very well told story with analysis and conjecture thrown in. Very enjoyable. I'd highly recomment it. Great value for money also.
Published 5 months ago by Paul
3.0 out of 5 stars train robbery
Its a good book but it does waffle on about instead of getting to the point. The most boring bit is the trial. Read more
Published 6 months ago by rayo
4.0 out of 5 stars It was a crime
Interesting read around the characters gave the "facts" as seen from more than one view point as interpreted and didn't fill gaps.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. David Piper
An enjoyable read but not too many new leads of information, a real shame this book was published when two other hardbacks also published all to coincide with the 50th Anniversary,... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mike Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
So well written, so many facts and figures. Really interesting read. Would recommend this to anyone who was interested in the crime. Read more
Published 6 months ago by lorraine
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