As winter fog and frost grips our offices in London, we at Bloomsbury Reader are stocking up for a weekend of blankets, hot water bottles, and excellent books. If you’re in the mood for some true crime, why not explore the glamourous world of 60s London, where the brutal criminal underworld rose up to mix with that of glittering celebrities and the filthy rich. It may look fun in hindsight, but those sharp suits and cocktail dresses were paid for in fear.
The Profession of Violence is the classic, bestselling account of the infamous Kray twins by John Pearson. It has been made into a major film, LEGEND, starring Tom Hardy. Reggie and Ronald Kray ruled London’s gangland during the 1960s with a ruthlessness and viciousness that shocks even now. Building an empire of organised crime such as nobody has done before or since, the brothers swindled, intimidated, terrorised, extorted and brutally murdered. John Pearson explores the strange relationship that bound the twins together, and charts their gruesome career to their downfall and imprisonment for life in 1969.
In sequel The Cult of Violence, Pearson revisits the twins’ criminal past and lays bare the truth behind the legend. Drawing upon a mass of first-hand interviews and private information he was unable to use while the Krays were still alive, he finally recounts the chilling untold story of the Kray twins.
Gone Shopping: The story of Shirley Pitts, Queen of Thieves shows us the somewhat lighter side of crime. Shoplifting her way to a better life, the glamour of swinging London was hard won for Shirley. Born into poverty, at seven she started thieving to feed her family. A personal friend of the Krays, Shirley partied alongside titled toffs and film-stars, indulging her weakness for Chanel suits and expensive furs. Family was Shirley’s main concern; for her siblings and her husband, but mainly for her seven children, providing for them everything her childhood had lacked, in the only way she knew how.
Lorraine Gamman, close family friend and death-bed confidant, has written Shirley’s story with humour, tenderness and flair. Check out her interview on The One Show, where it seems our Shirley has won over the heart of Sheridan Smith. We’d be pretty excited to see Sheridan play our Queen of Thieves, wouldn’t you?