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Great insight into life in London post WW2 - and also some gangster history.
on 24 January 2017
Not the greatest writing, but all the same, a really good and enlightening read; I really enjoyed this. I bought this book as I like the TV series Peaky Blinders and many of the real life characters appear in this book e.g the Sabinis, Billy Kimber and the Solomons. The bulk of the book however is not so much about these high profile gangsters and his gangster uncle Wag, but more of his own biography and this gives real insight into post war London. This book is really a series of vignettes based around South London, Hollywood the USA and Canada. He describes tough street life and family life in a post war London strewn with bomb sites; he describes the games and general life of growing up in a tightly knit and protective community - you get the feeling that you didn't really have many options other than to become a skallywag or low level criminal.' There are quite a few scrapes and scraps, but nothing really alarming. I really loved reading about his uncle Wag's adventures in 1920/30s USA/Canada - beautifully written by Wag and very evocative (Wag's observations are excellent). At the end of the book, I felt that I'd learnt much about this society and post war Britain - he is very proud of his roots and The Elephant/Borough, and as a reader you empathise with him because so much has changed to the area that he once knew so well. As for the gangsters, they simply grew from tough little gangs of boys confided by gang boundaries to a few streets; they eventually grow up with a reputation and turf wars ensue, its then a case of big fish little fish and alliances - I imagine that it was the same in all UK cities and even in the pit villages across Britain post WW1; London simply had the advantage of having so much wealth and opportunity on its doorstep and therefore their gangs became richer and more notorious. Next time I go to Borough or Elephant and Castle, I'll spare a thought for the old streets where these tough kids grew up into hard working men and/or criminals/gangsters. It's a shame that Wag and his chums never made it into Peaky Blinders.