Monday, January 05, 2009
London in the swinging sixties. Ronnie and Reggie Kray are criminal kingpins of the capital’s East End. Born in 1933 the twins rose to spectacular heights in the 1960’s London criminal fraternity, mixing when it was required with peers of the realm and lads from the docks. In the end they died with her majesty pleasure under lock and key.
James Morton charts this rise and fall of the Kray twins, who at their height were regarded both by themselves and others as untouchable. However this book does not lionise the twins and their criminal lifestyle but rather paints warts and all pen pictures of one of the East Ends most notorious criminal gangs.
Step by step Morton reveals the inner workings of the twins gang The Firm. How the twins ruled the members of the gang with a rod of iron and how through a mixture of fear and respect they maintained discipline in their organisation.
We are introduced to a host of East End gangsters John Dickson, Ronnie Hart and Billy Exley to name a few. Their functions in the gang, the parts they played in the trial of the twins and their eventual fates are laid bare for us to examine.
The author touches upon the shifting allegiances which existed in the criminal world. How members from the various gangs could be sharing the spoils of a criminal deal one day, then taking pot shots at each other the next.
We are also provided with brief but incisive descriptions of the events which lead to the murders of George Cornell, Frank Mitchell and Jack McVitie. Murders which were to bring about the trial and eventual imprisonment of the Krays. Here Morton shows his true worth and avoids sensationalising events, describing them just as they happened.
The chapter dealing with the trial Ronnie and Reggie Kray is an excellent example of how a writer can keep the interest of a reader. Morton resists the obvious temptation to delve deeply into the subtle nuances of the legal arguments. Instead the narrative is driven along with asides showing the faults and failing of the twins defence team.
As a plus the book is supplemented with photos of the transcripts of the trial and personalities, both criminal and legal, from the world of the Krays. With access to papers on the Kray Twins in the The National Archives coupled with his own previously published research into the subject, James Morton has created a book which will serve as an excellent introduction to the life and times of Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
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