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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facinating and Easy To Read Book
Graham Johnson writes this book from the perpective of the man who the book is based on - Stephen French. Having met with Stephen and done hundreds of hours of interviews, the book totaly feels like its being written from the man himself. The author writes the story from Stephens perspective to give a closer feel for the reader. The book reveals many incidents of the life...
Published on 28 Aug. 2008 by Stuart

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, simply awful
This is an awful book. Simply, absolutely and utterly awful. I have to stress from the outset that I'm not a fan of the congratulatory accounts of criminals. I very rarely read the self-justifying biographies of so called "hardmen" and gangsters. But I've read the odd one and although they are all universally bad, this is unrelentingly so. The main problem with Stephen...
Published 14 months ago by The JBP


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, simply awful, 14 Jan. 2014
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This is an awful book. Simply, absolutely and utterly awful. I have to stress from the outset that I'm not a fan of the congratulatory accounts of criminals. I very rarely read the self-justifying biographies of so called "hardmen" and gangsters. But I've read the odd one and although they are all universally bad, this is unrelentingly so. The main problem with Stephen French's account is his sheer lack of self-awareness.

An example? Mr French claims he "studied psychology at university" in order to "master mind control techniques." Really? Well lets look at this. On page 64 of the paperback edition, he writes: "Between having a business to manage, drug dealers to rob and training to do, I found myself too busy to attend any lectures. When it came to my finals, I terrorised the lecturer into telling me what questions would be on the exam: psychological intimidation - the art of fighting without fighting. In 1988, I graduated with a 2:2. Not bad."

Excuse me? Does anyone apart from me see anything glaringly wrong with this account? Allow me to illuminate you Mr French. You don't have a psychology degree and nor are you a psychologist. You cheated, plain and simple. You yourself say you didn't attend lectures so you can't have learnt anything. You admit to bullying the questions out of the lecturer - no better than the child who steals the exam paper out of teachers desk - and therefore your degree is null and void. The point of going to university is not a piece of paper with "degree" written on it, it is to STUDY and LEARN. The paper is meant as proof that you have done so.

Mr French should have just enrolled on one of those dodgy online universities that send you a "degree" for a fee and he would have been just as well off. Then there's his laughable attempt to dress up his thuggery towards his lecturer as "psychological warfare". I'm sorry, by that logic any schoolyard bully who uses his size and propensity for violence to steal dinner money from younger kids ought to awarded a Phd and referred to as a "Dr of Psychology."

In case Mr French still doesn't get it, allow me to demonstrate with an example. If I wanted to be a Doctor of Medicine but couldn't be bothered to study or attend lectures and instead bullied my lecturer into giving me the questions that would appear in my finals, would anyone reading this review trust me to carry out an operation? Would anyone take my advice on what medicine to take? Of course not. You would run a mile rather than take the advice of such a quack.

And to cap all this off, after all his cheating, Stephen French proudly proclaims that he got a 2:2. This is hilarious. for anybody reading this who hasn't been to university, degrees are broadly awarded on the following scale: A 1st, which is the best, think an A star or A in A-level. A 2:1, which is broadly equivalent to a B. A 2:2, which is a C. A 3rd which is a D. So Stephen French cheated, engaged in thuggery to intimate his lecturer, and the best he could acquire is a 2:2? That's the best result his "psychological warfare" could achieve? Either he's very thick and even with advance knowledge of the questions this is literally the best he could get, he's not that intimidating, or he's making the whole story up. I leave the reader of this review to make up their own minds.

Moving on there's one more area I would highlight. Throughout the book Stephen French pathetically attempts to justify his thuggish behaviour. He tries to portray himself as a man who only picks on criminals and drug dealers. But towards the end of the book on page 231 - 232 there's an account of a war between French and his friends and some other criminals, the Jaafans. One of French's allies puts semtex under Grandmother Jaafan's car and the explosion rips the arms off this old lady. Now I'm not suggesting that Mr French had anything to do with this. But you would think that someone of such moral standing, with such gangland values, would rule this out of order. Perhaps he would find out which of his allies had done such a horrific thing as attacking an old lady and punish them. Or perhaps he himself would do something to make amends for the conflict taking such a awful turn. But no. Despite the fact that Grandma Jaafan had looked after French's father when he had first come to the UK, Stephen contents himself with just a throwaway line of regret: "From Windrush to urban warfare in just two generations."

This anecdote leads me to my final criticism of this pathetic excuse for a book. Stephen French's tale would be bearable - just - if it was just an account of his "heroics". But what pushes it over the precipice and into the land of nauseous BS is his attempt throughout to make himself out as some kind of role model for black youth. I'm sorry, but this is just too much. From his kickboxing achievements, through his robbing of drug dealers, he portrays himself as typical of young black men growing up in Toxteth. Putting aside the fact that this does a great disservice to the vast majority of young black men who grew up in Toxteth and didn't turn into sadistic yobs who delight in the torturing of other human beings, its his hypocrisy which grates. For Stephen culminates his tale with a quite frankly surreal attempt to turn himself into a champion of anti-gun violence. This is not only ridiculous it is laughable. This is a man who openly boasts of driving bentleys and owning dockland apartments, presumably some at least bought through the proceeds of his crimes. This is a man who revels in his image as "the Devil". And he now expects young impressionable youth to read his book, watch his turns on various TV shows, and then say, "Oh, but even though he made money through violence and drugs, I'll just listen to him now when he says don't use guns.' His message in effect is: "Do as I say, not as I do.'

In conclusion: Save your money. Buy something else.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but tedious, 27 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
Poetic license appears abundant; French is insanely egotistical and not in the least bit likable, an okay read on the plane but don't expect to be overly stimulated. Better similar books out there - but it could just be that I didn't like the guy.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facinating and Easy To Read Book, 28 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
Graham Johnson writes this book from the perpective of the man who the book is based on - Stephen French. Having met with Stephen and done hundreds of hours of interviews, the book totaly feels like its being written from the man himself. The author writes the story from Stephens perspective to give a closer feel for the reader. The book reveals many incidents of the life some peopler called "The Devil". The book has so many stories to tell of extrmely dangerous conflict situations between rival gangs, feuds with fellow crew members and the author does not hold back. The author says in the first few pages how he really wanted to get the reader a feeling of Stephens perspective. I really felt I got a very strong sense of the man from this book and read it in 2 days. This guy had many wild encounters for decades. Many people would surely be dead or incarcerated if they were in the same situations. Find out how he survived and how Stephen was able to make changes to his life by turning his back on crime. A facinating read and well written book. Recommend highly especily if you would like to read about real life dangerous encounters or crime. Things thankfully can change
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but glossed up a ittle I feel!!, 24 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
This is quite well written and set out. Written as an autobiography (but it is not) you get the feeling the author has adopted the persona of French and writes the book with an adoration of the the man, injecting a little more glamour and awe than may have been so. That said, I really enjoyed the book and you can't help warming to "The Devil" as you read it. Overall if you take "The Facts" with a little scepticism it is a really good book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars betty boop, 3 Feb. 2008
This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
Can I just say I have never really been into "True Crimes" but ordered this book for my hubby as I had heard him mention it.
I have just finished reading it and what a FANTASTIC read it is. After just reading the Preface and Prologue I didn`t want to put this book down.
Its hard to believe that these things really happen as they normally only happen in films.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This would make a great film..., 30 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
Stephen French has an in depth view of the criminal world having associated with some of Britain's richest ever criminals. He also has a degree in psychology and as a result of his insight and analysis provides and interesting look into the workings of the criminal mind. He is an interesting character having started as a lookout for a teenage burglary ring in 70s Liverpool, to armed robber, to nightclub bouncer to drug "taxman" to multi-millionaire debt collector and property developer gaining a University degree and World Kickboxing Title along the way. His story would make the basis of a great crime drama in the mould of Layer Cake and is a warning for those who think they could make a successful career from selling Class A drugs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read 10/10, 12 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
A must read for anyone wanting to get an insight into the crime world of Liverpool in the late870's through to the mid 90's. Written by someone who has been there and done that, there are no punches pulled throughout the text. Whether you are interested in crime, the psychology of how criminals work, sociological effects of poverty and crime or just a good holiday read you will not be disappointed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's NOT racist! And overall the book is a good read, 12 May 2011
This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
I was really angry to read a review saying this was racist and maybe such readers should review their intentions. I am tempted to give this book a lower mark but overall, of the author's books (the author who is white btw), this is the best so far.
Overall I have some annoyances so i will start with these. Stephen says the book was written by Graham Johnson and should not be taken as an autobiography. This is VERY annoying as I want to hear HIS story not the tabloid sensationalist words of Graham Johnson. Secondly, Stephen is quoted as saying he is not a grass yet the book has 3 incidents of police co-operation, one being when he changed his life to become a Christian. I should point out I could not care less if he did or not. The point being be honest, don't lie as it makes others look at you in that light but hey, he without sin. The last problem I have is that, in parts, there seems to be a lot of bravado and machismo but as I said before, he says Graham Johnson wrote the book.

I do overall like the book. I like the fact he apologized for his wrong doing and that he's trying to over come his demons and provide for his family in a manner that is regarded as legitimate. I learnt at a younger age to abhor violence but I don't think you can blame Stephen for using the tools at his disposal. He was imposing and he was highly intellectual. I suspect there was A LOT more violence and somethings are only alluded to when you would like a lot more detail. Also, I would have liked to have had more info on his dealings with some of the Liverpool names you hear about these days in particular the Fitzgibbons, The Showers, Charlie Siega, John Haase (briefly mentioned). Like all "true crime" books, some central characters are given aliases which is particularly annoying. Still, from a personal point of view (which is what you're reading and NOT the words of Graham Johnson) I would recommend this book!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb read, 2 April 2008
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This review is from: The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman (Paperback)
I don't know about you but normally when I read a book of this sort involving violence, and organised crime. I tend to find that my eyes roll to the back of my head a lot while thinking why am i reading this catalogue of events, which just serve to show us how hard the subject is; and how he is to be feared etc, etc without showing us any substance or reasoning behind his actions other than to save face. Here though in this 200 odd pages we have the likes of which I have never read before in a true crime novel, and that is reasoning, intelligence of thought, and acceptence of guilt.

We firt meet the man Stephen 'The Devil' French when he talks about growing up in the southend of Liverpool, born into a mixed race family ( I live in the north end Walton). The area he lived in was Toxteth, it's an area that was as underprivelleged then as it is today to say the least, and from this point you get the sense that the subject would have done anything to escape the 'ghetto' as he calls it. He starts out his criminal life as a mugger and house burgler.

He tells us about the Toxteth riots, and it is here he reveals something that shows us that he is not your usual violent brute of a man. He explains that after the riots the police could not come into the area, the recession was well under way which resulted in no money, and no jobs. So where was the money going to come from? Drugs!! it's not just econimics that aid the selling of drugs but also the social enviroment (something I never ever considered). so really we get his thoughts and analysis of the situations he finds himself in at various times. this continues right through the book, which only adds to the enjoyment of it.

A majority of people who have read the book accuse Stephen of being Racist. I'm white and did not find that he was, or is. This is because I understand that for a long time in Liverpool, it was an us and them attitude from both races, and at various times his associations with white people have led to conflict. An example of which is when he is working at the Grafton (imagine the bar out of Star Wars crossed with Fraggle Rock and you have the Grafton). He is running the door of a club at a time when racism was stopping black people from crossing the door as a punter, let alone working there and he has a run in with a predominantly white firm who want him off the job. After the initial hostilities we see that Stephen goes on to tell us that he became friends with the ringleader of the gang, and was genuinnly saddened by his death.

I do have some issues with it though, well a couple of questions more than anything. what did his girlfriend do for him to walk away from her? and did he really say when he got his bail from his missus dad who was in the real thing. 'you to me are everything'? What a pearler, he's a legend for this line if nothing else. wherever you are Stephen it was a good read. Good luck to you!
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE DEVIL IN DISQUISE, 4 May 2014
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I enjoyed this book from start to finish, he did a lot of bad things, but also tried to make amends towards the end,trying to encourage young people to stay away from drugs and gang.It's pity that he has finished up in jail again.
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The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman
The Devil: Britain's Most Feared Underworld Taxman by Graham Johnson (Paperback - 2 Aug. 2007)
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