I supposed that any account of my life must inevitably be dominated by the fact that, in 1970, at 26 years of age, I was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a fellow criminal. I did not walk free until 24 years later. Needless to say, it was all a throughly negative and painful experience and the only positive thing one can say about it is, at the latter end, I became quite a prolific writer and have now written and had published six books.
Not surprisingly, the subject matter for most of my work came from the prison years. I was a troublesome prisoner at the best of times. An irresistible force in perpetual search for an immovable object, if you will. It took me a long and arduous journey through the bowels of the British long term prison system. In an environment where everything was pathos and strong men regularly went insane, it is perhaps a tribute to my tenacity that I managed to keep my head together. If anything kept me going it was the desire to write about, and thus expose, the brutality and human rights abuses extant in Her Majesty’s prisons.
There is now a body of work that is often used as set reading in university criminology courses as well as in the training of police and prison officers. If anyone wants to really know what goes on in the long term prisons, then they will find that knowledge in my books. None of my experiences were ‘glorious’ or ‘exciting’, so to write of events in that way would be to mislead. All my stories are cautionary tales. Not because I have been beaten or broken, but simply because that was the truth. I would not want to encourage the next generation of young men to waste their lives incarcerated for little or no good reason. Yes, it is true to say that I have mellowed.
Surviving wasn’t easy. Apart from having to deal with the physical reality of being locked up for perhaps 20 years or more, I also had to deal with living day by day with fellow inmates who were violent or seriously mentally ill or both. It isn’t for nothing that the system is known as ‘The Hate Factory’ amongst the cons. The survival strategy I adopted had two strands, the physical and the psychological. For the former I worked our for up to three hours every day, not only to make myself a physical force, but also to hone a phenomenal will power. Thus, if a rational/logical decision had to be made, however onerous, I always had the determination to make it. The psychological strand was centred on keeping my brain and my intellect alive. Whereas others spent mind-numbing hours in front of the TV, I studied for a degree on the Open University.
Freedom came complete with many challenges, not the least of them being that I would now have to find a way to earn a living. Few authors earn enough to live on so, to raise my writing profile, I began to work as a journalist. At the time the ‘Lads’ magazines were a publishing phenomenon. Maxim, Loaded and Front were the market leaders and I went on assignments all over the world for all of them. Baghdad between the wars; Sri Lanka investigating the Tamil Tigers; Haiti for the Day of the Dead ceremonies; the jungles of Colombia to photograph a cocaine factory; with the IRA in West Belfast; with the Yardies in Kingston and amongst the settlements in Gaza, all were experiences I shared with the reader. It was dangerous, of course, but then so was Parkhust Prison. The high point was reporting from Israel for the Sunday Express. I was covering a lot of ground, but then I had a lot of time to make up.
Coming to Valencia in 2004 was probably the best decision I ever made. A friend was opening a new club and I was to be the Head of Security. Nowhere near as dangerous as Gaza, of course, but at 58 years of age it did keep me on my toes. It was frantic, frenetic and fun for over seven years. The Valencianos liked to get off their faces, but rarely did it ever get nasty. Valencia may well have been Spain’s third largest city, but for me it always had a friendly, village mentality. No posing with the Valencianos. They knew what they liked and they liked what they knew. Who cares what they were doing in London, Paris or New York?
For those who would know more about my work, go to my website:
I am still writing books, but I have also started teaching creative writing to aspiring writers.