Rough, ruthless, volatile, they claw their way up through loveless childhoods on pitiless manors and make a go of ultra-tough lives, despite a tendency to spend time enjoying Her Majesty's Pleasure.
And that's just many of Martina Cole's fans; her characters are less genteel. The most popular author in the UK prison system (and proud of it), Cole has ram raided the charts again with 'The Business': the latest in a razor-edged line of East End shockers. The Essex girl sells in prodigious numbers – almost five million since 'Dangerous Lady' in 1992 – despite a virtual blackout in the upmarket media. Still, the supreme gangland moll of UK crime fiction needs critical hugs about as much as one of her scarred survivors needs a teatime chat with a social worker.