Top critical review
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Interesting but inevitably sketchy in places
on 28 May 2007
Jimmy Moody was an aristrocrat of London crime from the sixties until his murder in the nineties.
He was part of the Richardson torture gang, took part in a famous shoot-out with the Kray firm, joined a Wages snatch gang which netted hundreds of thousands, escaped from Brixton prison with a dangerous IRA terrorist, oh, and was widely reputed to be the most profilic underworld hitman there has ever been in this country.
Wensley Clarkson's book traces Moody's varied career with the notable help of the man's son, brother and IRA friend Gerard Tuite. Some parts of the book read with great authenticity - notably his earlier criminal career - but the 'hits', which are used as the book's main selling point - are vague. Clarkson lists a number of killings that Moody's name has been linked with, but he also points out that Moody's name tended to get linked with everything.
After his spectacular break-out from Brixton prison when he was serving a long sentence for armed robbery, Moody was never recaptured. He ended up living a fairly miserable existence in a couple of tiny flats in south and east London. One wonders why. He seemed to have connections and opportunities to make real cash, but instead went round on his bike and drank in a local. He hated leaving the country (and dogs and smoking) and was almost a cliche of a gangster who loved his Mum and his kids.
Strangely I found Jimmy Moody quite a small character - violent, savage even (at least two men in their early twenties met their death at his hands) - but almost banal in his lifestyle and attitudes. None of the flamboyance of, say, Kenneth Noye, another Clarkson biography subject.
It's a short book, quickly read, and offers an insight into how miserable being a gangster can be, trapped in a world of suspicion and 'codes' that only make sense to the small milieu that men like Moody live in.
Don't expect breathtaking character or action; this is a study in how mundane murder can be.
(Also don't buy Wensley Clarkson's 'Hitman' novel, that tends to get put in True crime rather than fiction sections, while looking for this, like I did. That work shows that Clarkson is no fiction writer. Seriously bad.)