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Hit ’Em Hard: Jack Spot, King of the Underworld Paperback – 2 Jun 2003
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' A lurid tale...but a fascinating one.' -- The Independent on Sunday
'compelling...the story of the battle for control of London's organised crime is gripping.' -- Evening Standard --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
Once the undisputed king of the underworld, Jack Spot was the most powerful criminal in Britain. His thirty-year career began in the 1930s and saw him living on a knife-edge in a thrilling and dangerous world. Over the years, he had run-ins with the Krays, the Richardsons and that other guv'nor of guv'nors, Billy Hill, as well as keeping crooked coppers in his pocket
Spot maintained an extravagant lifestyle for decades, indulging his weakness for beautiful women and all the trappings of wealth. He funded his lifestyle with a series of ingenious crimes, yet managed to escape years with impunity, earning himself national notoriety. Spot had the respect of his own fraternity who regarded him as the true boss of the underworld. Many of those villains even modelled themselves on him.
Wensley Clarkson tells the fascinating story of Spot's life, based on interviews with contemporary criminals and with Jack Spot himself. The result is a thrilling, enthralling account of one man's criminal genius, set against the darkly glamorous world in which he moved.
"This was more than a mob fight. It was victory over the Nazis. I didn't want to swank, but that night I was the hero of the west end."
JACK SPOT, '1938'
Top customer reviews
It is worth reading for anyone who likes that era. His role in the Battle of Cable St is disputed. Did he really have a jail sentence for his part? Certainly a hard character. Most of us would not want to have met him.
The writing is very disjointed and often follows unconventional rules that are sometimes fairly meaningless:
"Few villains needed ration books because they tended to eat in caffs. Poles, Czechs and French-Canadians joined up with villains on the run, and many used guns." (Page 54) or
'Soldiers from Canada, France, Holland, Poland and Norway turned London into the wildest, most cosmopolitan capital in the world.' (Page 48) or
"The Buttolph was also frequented by villains from areas across the river such as Walworth Road, Old Kent Road, Kennington, Lambeth, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Peckham, Camberwell and the Borough" (page 64) or
"Most of the members weren't actually from Elephant and Castle, but from Walworth Road, Old Kent Road, Kennington, Lambeth, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Peckham, Camberwell and the Borough" (Page 121).
"Sending out Wolselys, Bentleys, Morrises, Rileys, Railtons and secret squad cars to hundres of locations across the capital brought no results" (Page 108)
It makes one wonder why we were not given a more comprehensive lists of areas of London or nations of the world or the marques used as police cars but I imagine that it was just random lists like so many others thrown in at random - not definitive, not researched just random lists.
Then there are some extraordinary inaccuracies:
"Greeno personally handled twelve murder investigations and solved them all including the apprehension of cold-blooded child killers Gordon Cummins and Arthur Heys" (Page 106)
Cummins killed four people aged between 40 and 32 whilst Heys killed one person aged 27.
The lack of knowledge of, or disregard for geography is also disappointing - I presume that this was also done in a desperate attempt to make the book slightly longer and that it was felt important to drop as many references to places as possible
"......a postman walked through the gates of the main London post office in Eastcastle Street, just a stone's throw from the Old Bailey, on the edge of the City of London." (page 101)
Whilst it is true that the Old Bailey is in the City of London - Eastcastle Street is a couple of miles away running off Oxford Street. I suppose that we should be grateful that it was not described as being almost outside Buckingham Palace or on the very steps of Scotland Yard.
The way the author constantly drops into the turgid narrative the same hackneyed expressions is generally uninspiring - almost everyone or everything is fearsome; a legend or legendary; famous or infamous; beloved or adored.
This is a dreadful book - throwing away the £1.99 will be a far more rewarding experience
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