Buy Used
£2.80
FREE Delivery on orders over £10.
Used: Good | Details
Sold by Tree Savers
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: A used book that is in good, clean condition. Your item will be picked, packed and posted FREE to you within the UK by Amazon, also eligible for super saver delivery.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Dead Men's Wages (The secrets of a London conman and his family) Hardcover – 22 Feb 2002


See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover
"Please retry"
£4.97 £0.01


Free One-Day Delivery for six months with Amazon Student


Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition, First Impression edition (22 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330484451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330484459
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 350,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Too many "family-of" accounts of English gangster life are as dodgy as the deals they luridly describe. Dead Men's Wages, Lilian Pizzichini's superb reconstruction of her shady grandfather Charlie Taylor's niche in the London criminal underworld, stands apart as a restorative pick through the family rubble. On the day that she was born in 1965, Miss World had just left her grandfather for Bob Hope. Such decadence, however, was illusory: behind the extravagance lay an existence rooted in humble beginnings only ameliorated by fraud, gambling and deceit. Indeed, the book's title refers to a centuries-old scam perpetuated by Charlie, who claimed the earnings of non-existent workers, using the National Insurance numbers of dead soldiers from the Second World War. This bamboozling was also the premise of Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls, and while it's unlikely Charlie found much recourse to literature, his granddaughter writes with the cold anger and novelistic eloquence of the emotionally dispossessed.

Her account scratches the palimpsest of London history, recalling the Fascist rallies of the 1930s, the rise of hoodlums like Billy Hill and the Krays, the emergence of drug commerce, and the increasing concomitance of the criminal, show business and patriarchal classes. Finally arrested on charges of conspiracy to forge gold coins, Charlie, now plain old Alfred, his birth name, was acquitted of all charges posthumously, as he had expired on the platform at Waterloo Station. Integral also to Pizzichini's assimilated narrative is the rise and sprawl of the London suburbs, particularly to the north west of the capital, in a complementary vein to Edward Platt's Leadville, the expansion of which provided the rich pickings for Charlie and his ilk could make through the building industry. There are few pleasant folk in Pizzichini's haunted tale, yet her familial grave-robbing deglamorises and debunks with hard-fought zeal, rendering inherited mythologies in stark relief. Amoral conman to the last, Charlie instructed his son to "knock the undertakers" for his funeral. Pizzichini's epitaph, though, is damning, and final: "You see, Charlie, ultimately, no-one cared enough. We were tired of your depravity". --David Vincent

Review

Read[s] like a novel, with its bent coppers, pill-popping gangsters and dissolute aristocrats... intoxicating. -- Sunday Times 6 April 2003

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hallaig on 10 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating insight into the life of a London hoodlum and his family, where the author's memories and perceptions, through a child's eyes, are interwoven with the historical narrative.
As with many of the gangsters on both sides of the Atlantic, there's a horrible attraction about him. Probably we are drawn by the idea - beyond most of us morally - of living out vicariously such a life of extreme and unscruplulous selfishness. He does get his comeuppance so there is some pleasure derived from justice being triumphant at the last.
The book is written engagingly enough but the author overuses the annoying habit of elevating subordinate clauses, or even phrases, into complete sentences on their own. Which is irritating. As you see. If done like this. Often.
One other drawback is the lack of any photographs which would help provide a context, and the absence of an index or family tree. It becomes quite confusing, as the family grows, trying to keep track of them all.
Overall, a good read and a change from the well-worn Ron'n'Reg and mad Frankie rut.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By lozza Tay on 4 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Deep insight into a tragic family. From the outset, Pizzichini captures the millieu of the 1960s, and the hardships suffered by the poor throughout the 1900s
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Weston on 10 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I am interested in London history, but I have to admit I gave up reading this book about 1/6th of the way through... I skimmed the rest of the book and it looked like more of the same so I read the last 2 pages and then gave up. What I disliked about is is precisely that it reads like a novel - it's kind of a combination. The first chapter (well, foreword) was interesting - it deals with the author's actual memories of her grandfather and I guess what inspired her to write the book. But for the rest of it, she writes it as if it were a novel, with actually bits of speech that were apparently said, people's thoughts that were apparently thought, at the time, when it's quite clear that she can have had no inkling of any of this level of detail. The author herself admits on these pages that she may have embellished somewhat.

Compare this to the last biography I read, "Lilla's Feast" where the veracity of the personal story was supported by many detailed written accounts, photos and letters, and this really pales into comparison. I'm sure the general historic context is correct and that the author has done plenty of research into that, but it's really stretching it to think that she knew what her 4-year old grandfather actually said to a copper, word for word. I found it quite irritating, and tedious just hearing a blow-by-blow account of a sociopathic family. I think it would be more interesting if you had a really great interest in the subject matter, knew the context of surrounding gangsters etc, but for the general reader it might be a bit much.

Hope this helps
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By J D Miller on 3 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very fast service A1
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again


Feedback