Author Archive

The book I read to ressearch this post was A Man Apart by Roberta Kray which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This is a biography of the gangster Reggie Kray who was in jail for many years and was a notorious gangster in East End London told by his 2nd wife Roberta. He had a wife before that but she committed suicide. Roberta married him a few years before his death and this book focuses on those years. He did die of cancer and had advanced heart disease requiring oxygen and various drugs. He let out of prison on compassionate grounds not long before his death. Roberta nowadays is a successful novelist. She first worked with as part of an agency doing work with him. His 2 brothers were also in prison most notable Ronnie who was held at Broadmoor. Reggie himself was on Trifluoperazine a tranquilizer. He later got classed as well and taken off it.He had psychological problems earlier in his sentence. Some of the prison also had obviously quite an unsettling effect on him especially Long Larton. Lifers were frequently moved around and there numbers in any one prison strictly limited to prevent trouble. Years later he would be allowed to visit his brother in Long Larton. It brought back a lot of bad memories. This book is around 320 pages so is a decent length. I did enjoy it and do recommend it. It presents a realistic portrait of Reggie ¬†which is probably what he would have wanted. He wouldn’t want to be portrayed as an angel or devil.

The book I read to research this post was Guided By A Stone-Mason by Thomas Maude which is a very good book that I bought from a book store. This book is around 170 pages so is a reasonable length. It is about cathedrals in Britain from Norman times onwards and the different styles like gothic etc. At that time they were starting to build cathedrals from stone instead of wood. Many cathedrals like Worcester and Durham were built in this period. Many due to the longevity of stone are still standing. This book also looks at the interesting features and challenges of building these. Many of these stone-masons came from Europe and were very skilled creating intricate carvings from the stone. Often rock quarried locally would be used. Hence we have sandstone for example being used to build Lichfield cathedral. The church was very rich and powerful until Henry the 8th started the Protestants. Vaulting was used to create the archways which were typical of these. This idea of creating an archway with a centre stone was first used in Roman times. There were also many terms like groynes used to define the different parts of a cathedral. I did enjoy this book and do recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was The Guv’nor by Lenny McLean which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. Lenny did appear in several films most notably The Fifth Element as a police chief. Prior to that he had been a streetfighter and was unable to be a boxer due probably having a criminal record. He did grow up in a troubled home where his stepdad beat him. The stepdad was the only person in his entire life he lost a fight to. He did end up in the borstals and approved schools used to deal with juvenile crime. He also went to prison where he was charged with murder but ended up getting done for a lesser charge of grevious bodily harm. This book was published in 1998 and is around 220 pages so is a reasonable length. Apparently the mafia got him to fight their top streetfighter and he won in less than 3 minutes. It is certainly an interesting account of life in the East End of London in the gangster era. I enjoyed reading this book and do recommend it. It is worth mentioning he get duped into paying loads of money for a screenplay for a film allegedly from this book. It was charlatans trying to make money and there was little he could do about it. The fraudsters just got an injunction when he wanted his money back. Apparently there are a lot of these outfits trying to make money from supposed films.

The book I read to research this post was The Discography Of The Bismarck by Robert D Ballard which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book is a companion piece to one on the Titanic discovered by the same team. It’s around 250 pages so a decent length. This ship was the pride of the German navy and sunk in a massive operation for the sinking of HMS Hood the Royal Navy flagship. A huge assortment of vessels were used at one stage it looked like the King Georde V was likely to run out of fuel but told to continue despite a chance it might need towing and be vulnerable to U-boat attack. Blitzkrieg was named after the german chancellor often called the Iron Duke and sunk in over 4,700 metres of water in the Atlantic. Finding it was a huge job involving searching over 100 square miles. It was a huge chase and fearsome battle to sink. The potential damage the Bismarck could do to a convoy was huge. Churchill ordered it siunk at all costs. This is an interesting book I do recommend. The Titanic was recovered in similar circumstances deep in the Atlantic. One shell went straight threw the Bismarck with waves coming through it although it was above the waterline. Another shell hit the torpedo stores and started a fire.

The book I read to research this post was The Coming War by Todd Crowell which is a very good book that I bought from kindle. This book is part of kindle singles which is a kind of budget mini-e-books. It is around 100 pages so is a reasonable length. This book is about the dispute between China and Japan over a group of islands that could lead to war that could involve the USA coming into it on the side of Japan. There was a treaty signed by Japan and China at the end of World War 2 that didn’t cover these islands due them being uninhabitated. There are rare earth deposits and valuable minerals that could be exploited however. There is also the issue that Japan committed atrocities here during World War 2 and there is animosity between the 2 nations and the issue that Japan hasn’t apologised sufficiently or depict the true horrors in history lessons for students. There has also been various disputes with both sides sending in various military craft into the region and the other side’s response to this. This is a topical, interesting book that I do recommend. Of course there is also the issue that the USA is expected to defend Japan regardless what the conflict is. It could easily escalate into a nuclear war with both sides having a nuclear capability and Taiwan nearby might also have various claims.

The book I read to research this post was Boss Of Bosses by Andris Kurins et al which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book was published in 1991 and is around 350 pages so is a decent length. It is about the Godfather Paul Castellano who was sensationally bugged by the FBI and was taken to court having disparaged many of his fellow gangsters. He did die in prison but no one in the criminal underworld wanted to know him as a result. It does say in the more modern world it was getting more and more difficult for criminals to make money from the same rackets and law enforcement was getting more and more capable of catching them. Also in the old days many cosa nostra members had certain ethics like not peddling drugs and less ethical criminals were making more and more money and gaining power from these rackets. This is an interesting book that I recommend. It tells ameticulously researched sensational story. Before around 1957 cosa nostra didn’t really exist in name and many people saw organised crime as a large number of gangs not affiliated to each other in any way with often one gang wanting to take over the earners of another gang. The film The Godfather probably did a lot in informing people about the underworld although admitedly there have been many books and films on the topic in more recent years.

The book I read to research this post was The Stasi Files by Anthony Rees which is an excellent book that I bought from a car boot sale. The stasi is a secret service in what used to be East Germany although it is now defunct. It was 1 1/2 times bigger than the army and had huge influence of the lives of people routinely torturing and killing for the slightest infraction. They saw the western world as a threat and there was a good chance there style of government would be overthrown in favor of democracy. They aren’t like a western world secret service and are more like the gestapo. They were very good at running around Mi5 and only 2 agents were ever caught in Britain and that after a tip off from West German intel. They had an enbassy in London from 1973 when recognised as an official country until reunification in 1989. In the meantime a hotbed of espionage from there in that period. The embassy were mostly secret agents. It was like the spy who came in from the cold by john le carre although he had no idea how close he was. They regularly groomed potential agents in the west to help them. They saw groups like amnesty international as a threat. This is book is about 440 pages so a decent length. I enjoyed it and do recommend it.