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A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun: The Autobiography of a Career Criminal Paperback – 28 Jul 2005
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""This is not another lame true crime book written by someone who has spent their life in an office. Razor Smith is the real thing: someone who has lived the life and lived to write about it. A Few Kind Words "is a stunning book, filled with brutality, horror, and truth. It might be the best crime memoir ever written by an actual criminal." --James Frey, author, A Million Little Pieces
From the Author
I was born in London, on Christmas Eve 1960. My parents are both from Dublin, which, under Section 2 of the Irish Constitution, makes me an Irish citizen. Having grown up in London I class myself as London-Irish. My early years were spent in the slums of Islington, before my family were re-housed in a council flat in Lambeth.
At the age of fourteen I was arrested, beaten, and framed for burglary by the police. As a result of this, and despite being cleared by the courts, I drifted into petty crime. After several appearances in juvenile court for theft, TDA, and 'being a suspicious person' (the notorious 'sus' law), I was given a taste of the Short Sharp Shock, 3 months at a detention centre. Her Majesty's Detention Centre, Send, was infamous for its brutal regime, with both physical and mental violence meted out on a daily basis. I rebelled, and learned to harness my absolute hate of 'the system' in order to get me through.
At the age of 16 I appeared at the Old Bailey, on charges of armed robbery, possession of a firearm and GBH. I pleaded guilty and was sentenced the three years detention under Section 53/2 of the CYP Act 1933, the wording of which was "Any young person under the age of 17, who is convicted of a crime that would warrant fourteen years imprisonment, or more, for an adult". 'Though I was serving the equivalent of four borstal sentences back to back, the only place I could be detained was in a closed borstal.
I served my sentence in the gladiator schools of Ashford, Dover, and Rochester borstals, where horrific violence was the norm and the weak and timid became no more than prey. Determined to escape, I seriously assaulted a night watchman and ended up in strip cells and solitary confinement for months, where I finally learned to read and write.
Released in 1980, I gathered a gang around me and set out to take revenge for the years I had been locked up. Gang fights and petty crime became my milieu. After I was seriously beaten by a rival gang, and, having met the love of my life and got her pregnant, I decided to take up serious crime for financial gain. Bank robbery became my career.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s I was sentenced to a total of nineteen years, with hundreds of years in concurrent sentences, for armed robbery, firearms, and prison escape. In prison I began to educate myself. I gained an A-level in Law, an Honours Diploma in freelance journalism, and four Koestler Awards for my writing.
In 1997 I was released on parole, and in 1999 I once again appeared at the Old Bailey and was sentenced to eight life sentences for bank robbery, under the two-strikes act. 'A Few Kind Words and A Loaded Gun' is my first book. I am currently residing at HMP Grendon, and working on 'Fixing It', the follow up. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.See all Product description
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I remember one of my best friends Noel showing me a paper clipping from the South London Press reporting on his failed stick up of an off-license in Balham. By 1980 that was the way the wind was blowing. As kids we were always involved in some life threatening escapade or another, but it was more for kicks and only occasionally criminal. But by the time half my friends were in remand centres or borstals I knew I was well out of it.
So although it came as a massive surprise, it really shouldn't have, when I recently discovered that the aforementioned Noel is now better known as Razor Smith and is currently serving life for armed robbery.
Smith has shot, slashed and robbed his way into gangland legend. Before his life sentence he was the frightener in a gang of four known as the `Laughing Bank Robbers' who carried out a string of bank raids around South London, he has fifty eight criminal convictions to his name and has now chosen to write his autobiography - "A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun."
Described by G.Q magazine as "One of the most powerful and intelligent crime memoirs we've ever read" and "extraordinary" by the Guardian, I just thought it plain surreal to be standing in the middle of Waterstones seeing my name included in the `lavishly blood splattered' memoirs of a major career criminal. Names, places, incidents, half forgotten friends and enemies and even my brother all contextualised in the pre-teen remembrances of a kid I took my first and only pinch with. (For messing around on a railway track - ironically) And although Smith is no killer and I'm certainly no choirboy - I felt like Pat O'Briens's priest from the movie `Angels With Dirty Faces' reading about the gangster exploits of his boyhood chum Rocky Sullivan played by James Cagney. In fact we were all Cagney fanatics in those days, endlessly acting out scenes from White Heat or Public Enemy on the roof tops of Streatham High Road.
The book goes on to outline various `tear ups' between all those old sub-cultures of the late 70's such as the Rockabilly's, Skinheads, Punks, Smoothies and Teds which culminated in, perhaps, some of the most notorious pre-gun gang wars such as `The Battle of Morden,' `The White Swan Massacre,' and the seemingly fortnightly riots at the Chickaboom Club in Carlshalton. But by the time most of these incidents took place I was lost in music and Razor had gone the way of the gun.
As I say, we all wonder about what happened to the kids we grew up with. I just never thought I'd find out in such a spectacular fashion.
Noel `Razor' Smith is currently residing in HMP Grendon.
"A Few Kind Words..." stands head and shoulders above most crime memoirs. Firstly, it is not ghostwritten - Smith discovered a talent for writing whilst behind bars that eventually got him published in national newspapers. Secondly, prison is where he is right now, serving a life sentence (or technically speaking, eight of them). So let's just say that, on top of being well-written, this book has an edge over much of its Real Crime contemporaries in what can often be quite a tacky and superficial genre.
Smith loads his memior with enough raucous mayhem to more-than-satisfy on the entertainment front, but also often pauses for intelligent, analytical reflection on the workings of his criminal mind, and the life he has spent "fashioning the chains that now bind him". Through writing, he says, he has "found a more acceptable way of expressing himself" than via the violence and crime that has taken away his most basic human right: freedom.
Born in 1960 into an average Irish working-class family, Smith has none of the usual excuses of a broken home or violent parental abuse to account for his slip down the wrong tracks, and to his credit, insists it was entirely his own choice, something he walked into with eyes wide open to the consequences. Yet, in his exploration of the past, he interestingly cites an adolescent experience of unprovoked "torture" and forced false-confession at the hands of drunken police as a turning point in his attitude towards "the system", sparking a rebellious spirit that - who knows - may not have otherwise been there, or atleast come so prominently to the fore. He also explains what it was like during the seventies when, with the IRA's bombing campaign at its height and anti-Irishnes rife, London-Irish kids were often compelled to either feign Englishness or assert their own identity, sometimes physically.
Though such factors can hardly take the blame for the self destructive one-man crimewave that Smith became, it does suggest how he would have felt the kind of outsider status that can often lead in a lawless direction. However, with Smith's addiction to the power and adrenaline of armed robbery (It was a rush that no amount of cocaine or Ecstasy could imitate"), it is hard to imagine anything other than participation in an actual war (Smith's own suggestion, by the way) satiating such an overwhelming urge.
Smith gets great pleasure in considering himself one of the last London "Chaps", criminals who followed codes of conduct and honour taken from noir gangster films and westerns. Here he paints all the usual mythical pictures of villains who were honest, moral and fair (as opposed to the modern sterotypical urban criminal, cracked up to the eyeballs and would kill his own granny for a tenner). But in wild contradiction, he also describes himself as "a thug from a council estate" who admits to acts of violence that were "vicious and heinous" - such as his penchant for slashing faces, presumably - hence the nickname. (The book actually ends in a show-off no-brainer statement that defies the writing's overall intelligence.)
Nevertheless, Smith generally paints himself as human rather than hero (he doesn't always win - he often quite brutally loses), and he writes with an awareness that, due to his endles tempers, tantrums and slashings, he is not exactly endearing himself to the reader. But that is a winning ingredient, because in a crime memior the down-to-earth honesty and lack of excuses makes a real change.
Mirroring Smith's life, much of the book is set in prison - in fact, Smith takes us on a tour of practically every prison in southern England. In these chapters he rails against what he sees as "holiday-camp" depictions in the British tabloid press where prisoners are treated with kid gloves and a revolving-door policy operates. Conversely, Smith runs through the many bad conditions, brutalities, injustices and corruption he has witnessed - which is enlightening but, of course, depressing.
Smith's endless revisits, after umpteen chances of freedom, may leave you exasperated and out of patience - Razor's life reads like one long prison sheet punctuated only by occasional bouts of freedom. But crime was evidently what he thrived on, his reason for living, and no amount of jail - despite its harshness - could quash his desire to keep going back to "the business" for more. Ultimately, in the book (until a massive life sentence in '99), he's springing back and forth like a yo-yo.
Of course, towards the end there are a few moments of regret (how could there not be?), but there's also a strong lingering sense of defiance (check out the last few paragraphs) that are quite startling. You're left remembering the zeal - an almost heady nostalgia - in which Razor Smith recounts his robberies, gangfights and prison escapes that leaves you wondering if given the chance he's do it all again.
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