Crime In Brief: The Last Word: My Life as a Gangland Boss<br></br> The Levanter

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The Independent Culture

Welcome to post-war South London where hard men ruled the streets, pubs

and clubs. Meet Eddie Richardson, one of the hardest of them all, who, with his brother Charlie walked tall and fearless. These boys were always looking for a ruck, a stroke of luck or a bit of villainy, and they found all of them in spades. But of course, as in all good stories, retribution came fast, and Eddie found himself doing time in some of the toughest prisons in the country. Banged up with various great train robbers, over the pavement merchants, and members of the Kray Twins firm, he still found time for fun and games with the authorities, including mutinies and vain escape attempts. Those halcyon days of gangland have gone, and Eddie has calmed down and become a talented artist, while most of the gangsters he knew are dead or turned respectable. Folk heroes if you like, or even if you don't. The Last Word is a valuable social document of times we'll probably never see again.

The Levanter by Eric Ambler (NO EXIT PRESS £6.99 £6.99 P&P FREE) 08700 798 897

Once hailed as one of the UK's premier thriller and crime writers, Eric Ambler has been sadly neglected of late. The winner of two Crime Writers' Association Gold Daggers(one for this novel) and a grand master of the Crime Writer Association of America, his career spanned over 60 years, and included a stint in Hollywood where he scripted The Cruel Sea among other films. The Levanter, originally published in 1972 and now reissued as part of No Exit Press's 18th birthday celebrations, tells the story of Michael Howell, a man who ducks and dives around the Middle East making money from various dodgy enterprises, until he gets in too deeply with a terrorist organisation intent on destroying Israel, and things go from bad to worse. Maybe the style is a little old-fashioned, but it's obvious that Ambler paved the way for a crime sub-genre that still keeps a lot of lesser writers in Bentleys and Savile Row suits. Good stuff.