My 12 in 12 Challenge – March – Biographies and Memoirs – Book 9

During the 1960s the criminal underworld in London was dominated by the Kray twins; Ronnie and Reggie. Just at the time when their empire was starting to crumble they asked the author John Pearson to write their autobiography. He had access to the twins and their friends and gained an amazing insight into their world. When the twins were incarcerated he was then able to do more research and others were prepared to tell a different story now that there were no risks of reprisals. The result was the biography The Profession of Violence which is my ninth book in March’s 12 in 12 Challenge.

From the first the twins had decided that they were going to make their way by crime and they never held down a job. To do this they needed to be sure that others would do what they wanted and that meant that they had to be violent, and they were. They started off boxing in competitions and used their skills well. They ruled their part of the east end of London by fear and although they occasionally indulged in acts of kindness these were overshadowed by their darkness.

There has grown up a sort of mystique about the twins, a feeling that they were glamorous and just some form of lovable rogues. The author clearly dispels this myth. The twins did become famous, they did mix with celebrities and the aristocracy, and they were popular but they were always brutal, they stole and cheated for a living and eventually they turned to murder.

This is a fascinating study of crime within its environment and also about what is needed to maintain what has been achieved. Ronnie Kray was a paranoid schizophrenic who received no help for his condition. His brother was totally in thrall to him. When the wheels began to come off their lives there was no way to fix it. They were always doomed to be a temporary phenomenon but they destroyed lives while they were there.

The fact that the twins operated and thrived says much about inbuilt corruption and ineptitude in the police force at the time as well showing you how important it is to know and woo the right people in the establishment.

An excellent study. It certainly makes you wonder about nurture/nature and interdependency.