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Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond Paperback – 2 Sep 2010
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Praise for Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia:
The legendarily catastrophic life of Julian Maclaren-Ross has tempted biographers before. But
the task of pursuing him, like the Hound of Heaven, through the sordid backstreets, rented basements and sodden saloon bars of his progress has always proved too much of a challenge. It is an extraordinary story of profligacy and waste which has been told, up until now, only in a million awed anecdotes... I have to take my hat off to Paul Willetts for his sheer industry in following his subject to places where few literary biographers need to tread
Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia is an amusing and ultimately tragic account of the post-war bohemian Julian Maclaren-Ross whose self-destruction was emblematic of an age of fire (Sunday Telegraph)
A fascinating biography (Virginia Ironside Independent on Sunday)
Tremendously entertaining and amazingly well-researched (John Walsh)
Willetts deftly disentangles Maclaren-Ross from the web of speculation (Financial Times)
Imagine a ration-era Withnail and I... Willetts's engaging biography, the evocatively-titled Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia, helped pull a lost man of London letters out of obscurity (Word)
Recounting a life made up of lost afternoons, unfulfilled projects and midnight flits is no easy
task. Willetts doggedly follows Maclaren-Ross to the bitter end, providing a biography that maintains a careful balance between the broadly sympathetic and the properly sceptical
Very striking, very strange and altogether fascinating (Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder)
For a full and really fascinating account [of the life of Julian Maclaren-Ross], it is to Willetts's biography Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia that one must turn. That wonderful book is so
informative and so psychologically perceptive...
Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia vividly recreate[s] the colourful life of this difficult, troubled charmer... an excellent biography (Observer)
Historical profiling of a high order, richly and racily done (Literary Review)
An affectionate memoir that celebrates a life of flamboyant decline (The Week)
Willetts's gloriously readable biography paints a picture of a life which, for all its disappointments, was richly lived. I finished the book rather regretting never having had the opportunity to have stood Maclaren-Ross a drink (Mail on Sunday)
Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia is a cracking portrait of London bohemia (Independent)
Exhilaratingly depressing (The Times)
Assiduously researched and enthusiastic (Independent on Sunday)
Diligent, painstaking and bleakly hilarious (Guardian)
Praise for North Soho 999:
I urge you to read North Soho 999 by Paul Willetts. It's the absolutely gripping true story of an armed raid on a Fitzrovia jewellers/ pawnbrokers that escalated into a huge manhunt. The book drips with a fantastic Austerity Britain atmosphere, a place of flick-knives and gangsters and a capital awash with the plundered firearms of the recent war. It reads like a novel and is amazingly relevant, showing how the same terrors and preoccupations about society spinning out of control have always been with us
Fitzrovia is the setting of Paul Willetts's tour-de-force North Soho 999, a recreation of the circumstances of a murder that took place on 29 April 1947... It is a fascinating account of a vanished Britain (Philip French TLS)
This book is like one of the best black and white films-only it's a true account of a notorious London gun-crime in 1947. Guns were prevalent just after the war and times were hard--and it was Fabian of the Yard who solved the murder of the young garage-owner, Alec de Antiquis. This is so meticulously well-researched, and such a compulsive read, that you are taken straight back to those grey post-war streets of Soho and the days of narks, spivs and squealers, when detectives wore suits and guns were found in the mud at Wapping. Unputdownable (Virginia Ironside Independent)
Immensely well-researched (D J Taylor Spectator)
A wonderful book. What a story! Its narrative, in all its squalid detail, is masterly (Selina Hastings)
A brilliant snapshot of 40s London, peopled by crooks, coppers and creeps. Willetts slices
through time with the skill of a razor-flashing wide-boy. Essential reading
An amazingly atmospheric recreation of bombed-out post-war London, stalked by gangs and menaced by the threat of gun-crime (Robert Elms BBC Radio London)
A triumph of research and patient industry, full of arresting incident and sub-celebrity walk-ons... [and] wonderful bits of period detail(DJ Taylor Independent on Sunday 2010-09-05)
[A] vivid portrait of the man who was, to all intents and purposes, Mr Soho. This fascinating study is as much a history of London's square mile of vice as an account of one man's life...
Thoroughly researched and extremely well written, this is an impressive book. Not since John Dickie's Cosa Nostra have I read anything that exerts such hypnotic fascination for its sometimes repellent subject.(Catharine Arnold Observer 2010-09-05)
Paul Willetts skilfully teases back the curtains draped around Britain's pioneering pornographer... what really hits the spot is the way Willetts evokes Soho's tacky allure and charts the guilt-ridden British attitudes to sex that allowed a cynical player to prosper. (Keith Watson Metro 2010-09-08)
A well-researched book, covering an exceptionally interesting slice of social history. (Lynn Barber Sunday Times 2010-08-29)
Extraordinary (Daily Express 2010-08-26)
Willetts is good on the way attitudes and the law changed in regard to porn over the years, and on the shifting face of Soho. He is a brisk and witty writer, with an eye for quirky detail... extremely diverting. (Nick Curtis Evening Standard 2010-08-26)
Willetts has done a magnificent job (Sukhdev Sandhu Daily Telegraph 2010-09-11)
All is revealed in this straightforward yet queerly affecting account. (Paul Burston Time Out 2010-09-16)
Brilliant... Willetts' tone of amused detachment is pitched just right, making for some truly hilarious passages. (Simon Evans Choice 2010-10-01)
A fantastically rich portrait of Soho and the post-war period. (Travis Elborough BBC Radio 5 Live Up All Night 2010-10-11)
It documents a fascinating turning point in social history - the transition between grim post-war Britain and the swinging Sixties... hilarious... The whole fascinating story is spiced with brilliant chapter headings, from "Phwoar and Peace" to "Captain of Skindustry". (Virginia Ironside Independent 2010-10-22)
An intelligent, carefully researched book which is humorous but never cheap. It is full of pleasing details... Anyone who wants to study underworlds, Soho history, sexual chauvinism and repression, the self-deception and stupidity of censors, police corruption of the techniques of property speculation should read this book (Richard Davenport-Hines TLS 2010-10-22)
Now a major film starring Steve Coogan.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Early on Raymond seems to have accepted he was always going to live on the edge in making his way in life. His early involvement in black markets in London, early ejection from his period of service in the RAF and then provincial theatre revues where his mind reading act failed to succeed, by his own later admission probably benefitted him. Like many great football managers who were not great players, he succeeded at other options in the same industry. The early attempts at bringing to small UK regional theatres the sexual titillation he had seen attempted in the Windmill Theatre during World War 2 met with such an enthusiastic response that his early wealth was quickly established from having several such shows touring.
Sensing the demise of such tours with the rise of TV in the late 50s, he took the gamble of establishing the Revuebar in Soho, copying what he had seen from the striptease shows then performing in Paris. Early support from many high profile media stars of that era plus a national push to establish a large population of members helped his success and a level of acceptability that many other Soho strip clubs could never imitate. While he still had numerous brushes with the police of Scotland Yard and licencing authorities of Westminster, by ensuring top legal advice plus as many friends observed always being at his personal best when faced with a problem, he saw off all such challenges across the years.
The growing sexual freedom of the '60s allowed him to keep pushing the boundaries. By continually attempting new gimmicks plus importing new European and US acts, his venue had an aura of quality that ensured its longevity versus the usual Soho short term business model of ripping the punters off and profiteering as quickly as possible. While by the '70s he had to move to attracting foreign tourist trade, it ensured the punters still kept coming.
Raymond's success at property investment provided his fortune in later life but it is clear from the early 60s he was always attracted to this asset. The early acquisition of the Revuebar's freehold was due to his landlord assuming he would not last and granting a long lease with no rent increase (!). Other Soho premises acquired at auction were immediately rented out to Soho porn merchants with the resulting high rents that could be charged. This approach evidenced the hard double edged personality of Raymond. While Soho porn merchants ruled, he could charge short term high rents they were only too willing to pay. With the later gentrification of Soho, higher longer term rents were paid by the newer class of tenants moving in, often displacing many old family businesses who could not face such hikes. To Raymond it was simply good business and in so doing he continually showed the cold and to some brutal decision making needed to become as wealthy as he subsequently did.
Moves into soft porn publishing (Men Only, Club International etc.) and long running sex farces staged in central London theatres which the critics continually panned, kept the cash flowing to fund further property acquisitions and the odd dud venture - early attempts at gay revues and more normal nightclubs all failing abysmally.
The book is also a very full account of Raymond's personal life which is the publicised area where his notoriety will inevitably always stand. Till his body gave out, he lived the lifestyle of the oldest swinger in town but as endless quoted evidence shows this never produced any personal happiness. A bitter divorce had far reaching consequences with a wife who in his early years was a true business partner but then was always at war with him till her death; a daughter who extended her emotional control from childhood by siding with her father but through endless drug and alcohol abuse led to an early death; and a son who was a victim of his sister's jealousy and despite later reconciliations with his father was never accepted back into the inner fold, being ostracised in his father's will in favour of his daughter's children.
While the book cover makes reference to Raymond being the UK Howard Hughes, one is left feeling that a much better comparison is with oil multi-millionaire Paul Getty who similarly led a high profile life and became reclusive in late life but never throughout lost the ability to know a good business deal when he saw it. The likes of Paul Raymond represent what many people probably admire and hate in equal measures - success financially but a disaster as a likeable human being. Paul Willetts has captured this all in writing a fascinating biography.
Paul Raymond cuts a sad figure.
For every minute of every day,his only priority in life was to make money.
His chosen path was a type of porn baron come agent provacature.
Such was the finacial rewards,he ended up a property billionare.
But over the many years of exploiting man's prechant for sexual fantasy and imagery.
He totaly negleted his own family life.
Decades of self indulgance, of adulteress encounters,heavey alcohol and drug abuse.
Left him rich in wealth but poor in heart.
A facinating insight to one man's rise to power.
Only to die into an oblivion of bitterness and confusion.
Well worth putting your feet up with a glass of red and toasting ones own normality?
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