Villains' Paradise: A History of Britain's Post-War Underworld

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"Thomas has excelled himself. An important and riveting study in social history, it also has a very pertinent relevance in the crime-riddled society that is Britain today."-The Sunday Times (London)

"A magnificent book. Beautifully written, utterly compelling: almost without fault in every respect."-The Literary Review

Venturing into the urban underbelly of postwar ...
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Overview



"Thomas has excelled himself. An important and riveting study in social history, it also has a very pertinent relevance in the crime-riddled society that is Britain today."-The Sunday Times (London)

"A magnificent book. Beautifully written, utterly compelling: almost without fault in every respect."-The Literary Review

Venturing into the urban underbelly of postwar Britain, and especially of London, this riveting true-crime chronicle explores the shadowy ganglands where for twenty-five years armed robbery, prostitution, vice, and drugs flourished under racketeer kings.
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Editorial Reviews

Andrew O'Hagan
Donald Thomas’s Villains’ Paradise is a thrilling and thoughtful encapsulation of a national fascination. British newspapers have always been obsessed with criminal personalities, and this book is a spirited collection of the best and most famous tales. Reading it, one comes to see why Ronnie Biggs, one of the Great Train Robbers who stole £2.3 million from a mail train in 1963, is considered something of a national treasure, and also why the Krays, a set of ferocious and psychopathic twins who stole and murdered their way to infamy in the 1960s, were treated to legendary status and faux state funerals in the East End of London when they died. They had worn nice suits, after all, and they obviously loved their mother.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The latest installment in Thomas's fascinating series unearthing the sordid underbelly of Britain (The Victorian Underworld) examines the postwar years, concluding his survey in the gritty 1970s. Between 1944 and 1945, he finds, violent crime almost doubled as army deserters and black marketeers struggled for control of the streets; by 1970, violent crime had only tripled. Not a shocking tabloid newspaper goes unread, not an Old Bailey transcript unperused, as Thomas tracks down the half-forgotten felons (Jack Spot, the Velvet Kid) who both terrorized and thrilled the country. Alongside the psychopathic killers (John Haigh, the "Acid Bath Murderer," who resembled Hollywood actor Ronald Colman), Thomas investigates the prostitution rings, the early days of drug dealing and the sharply dressed spivs who exported the fraud now known as three-card monte to the United States. On the other side, there's the creation of the Ghost Squad-undercover officers penetrating the underworld-and the rise of the "supergrass." In 1970, Bertie Smalls, a veteran of 15 armed robberies himself, put away 32 of his colleagues, who menacingly sang "We'll Meet Again" when he appeared in the witness box. It makes for wonderfully colorful history, told with all the relish of the true-crime aficionado in a very British, almost Dickensian kind of way. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933648170
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • Publication date: 12/15/2006
  • Pages: 506
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Thomas is the prolific author of dozens of books, including poetry, fiction, biography, and true-crime. His widely praised The Victorian Underworld was short-listed for the Golden Dagger Award and followed by An Underworld at War (2003). Thomas is also the author of seven biographies, including the international bestseller Cochrane: Britain's Sea-Wolf. He lives in Bath.
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