In The Guv'nor, Len takes us, in what largely seems to be his own words (those offended by coarse language beware, he is no honey-tongued rhetorician), through his reminiscences. He evokes a compelling picture of times past, of a tough childhood growing up in the impoverished East End under the auspices of a brutally violent and unforgiving stepfather. He lived his early life in violence, and from that point, through a career of petty crime, minding, bouncing and unlicensed prize fighting (in fact anything that required muscle--his weapons were his fists, and he never used a shooter) it never ended. Because violence came so naturally to Len, his blasé attitude to hospitalising several slags ("no good bastards", so the helpful glossary of colourful terms informs us) can be bluntly shocking. But although violence was a feature of his life, this is not what the man (nor the book) was about. Len was essentially a man of simple values, but with a temper and the tools to make those who crossed or challenged him regret it--badly. A man of strong principles, (by his own account but also by the account of many others), a loving husband and father, not to mention brother, uncle, friend and, perhaps most poignantly, son of a cherished mother. Like many other hard men, he had a particular soft spot for his mother, who herself lived a cruelly tough life of sacrifice and subjugation.
When I met Len, he was courteous and charming, but the air of menace was unmistakable when he had to straighten a fellow bouncer for disrespecting a lady (I cannot remember what the guy actually did, but he definitely wouldn't do it again in Len's presence). Once the message was received, he happily returned to chatting, enlightening me with his words of wisdom. And what wisdom, you may ask, did I take from him? Son, treat kindness with kindness, he pronounced in that gravelly, stentorian tone--an admirable sentiment I thought--and violence with EXTREME violence! he trumpeted. Thankfully, few, if any, can do it quite like Lenny.--Alisdair Bowles