One of the most people I have had the pleasure to meet is author Brixton Key. Brix is from England but has resided in the US for many years. His parents were very colorful and his Dad was connected.... Brixton is out promoting his novel Charlie Six... But he was kind enough to sit down and pound out a little British organized crime piece for Retro: Kimmer. TY Brix xxooK
BRIXTON KEY IN PERSON AUG 4 SAN FRANCISCO
WHERE IS CHARLIE SIX?: NEW NOVEL BY BRIXTON KEY
CHRIS ISAAK: THE BEGINNING BY BRIXTON KEY
Jack Spot, the Kray Brothers, and Ten-Bob to go get some sweeties (sweets).. Brixton Key
There were always wide-boys, hard men, or gangsters as we’d call them in America hanging around my Dad’s pub when I was a boy. They were loud larger than life characters, fancily dressed with money in their pockets, and their shoes shined to perfection when England was dull, grey, grubby, and broke in the post World War Two years. They drank double scotches and splashed out on extravagant rounds for their mates. When they needed a private word with dad they’d send me off with ten bob to go buy some sweeties.
The Duke of York, was in Holborn opposite a bombsite where two whole streets of houses had been obliterated. My father bought the public house from Jack Spot, one of London’s most notorious hard men. The night dad took my mother to see the Duke, where we were moving to from staid suburban Hampton, two women in the public bar got into a fight. It ended with one of stabbing the other in the eye with a fork. It was a rude awakening for mum to see my Dad’s life away from home. Together they frequented upscale joints like the Savoy, or the Grill Room at Trocadero.
Alone with my “uncles” Maurice and Jack Spot, my father frequented the milieu that bubbled underground in the London of the 1950’s. Of course, mum knew what he was up too. It was always a bit of a laugh to her, except for the time one of his mates, a drummer with one of England’s popular big bands, and his girlfriend overdosed on morphine in my parents suburban living room. Mum never told dad that she’d once dated the drummer. Dad never told Mum that his driver Fu had supplied the morphine. She never discovered that element of the game until Fu got arrested in a local playground, where he took me on my nanny’s day off.
It was terribly exciting for a six year old when two huge burly men, who looked like wide boys, busted Fu as he handed a large package to a tiny little ferret looking bloke. It was like the movies. I can’t remember how Fu looked now, but I do remember his accent. It was as thicker Cockney as the River Thames fog that settled over Limehouse. He was the only Chinese East Ender I’d ever met.
Brixton age 15
I always asked him about the package. “Oh,” he’d say, “I ‘ave to post it later for yer Dad.” I never told dad we hadn’t gone to the Post Office. I never grassed Fu out, because he never told on me when I nicked packs of John Players cigarettes from behind the bar. I’d sussed it was right dodgy to grass someone out. I’d heard snippets of conversation; I knew razors weren’t only for shaving.
READ MORE ABOUT BRITISH ORGANIZED CRIME
I was six-years-old at the time. I was intrigued by the uniformed rozzers that led Fu and ferret face away in handcuffs from the playground. I cried when one of them escorted me from the roundabout to a waiting police car. I didn’t reckon the few pennies I had in my pocket would work as a bribe for them to let me go. I sobbed all the way home in car. Gawd was I glad when they pulled up in front of the Duke and escorted me into the Saloon bar.
“And what has he been up to now?” mum asked the copper. I’d been arrested the week before for chopping down a small tree in a local private park my parents subscribed too. They thought I needed some greenery to play in. I thought I’d turn the tree into Robin Hood bows. They were trying to discourage me from breaking up more bombsites. My mum reckoned I missed the garden behind our old house in Hampton. I much preferred bombsites. It was more real playing war amongst destruction.
Later that night after closing time, I could hear my parents shouting in the bar about Fu. I gathered mum was cheesed-off about me being used as a front. But then again they might have been arguing about me being sent to boarding school. They might have been arguing about anything. It’s all they ever did was shout and slam doors. I have a photo of my mum and sister, Susan, taken outside the Duke of York before my sixth birthday party. Mum doesn’t look happy. Not long after that my parents divorced and I was sent off to the Licensed Victualler’s School boarding in Slough for misbehaving at convent school.
When Uncle Jack Spot ( Jack Comer) heard I pushed a Nun into a fountain at the convent, he laughed his head off. He was the man in the East of London. It was his turf. When England’s Fascists, the blackshirts, held a rally in the East End before the war, taking their antisemitism into the heart of the predominately Jewish area, it was Jack Spot’s boys that sent them packing. He took protection from all the shop keepers in the area. He collected for the Jewish bookmakers who had no recourse to the law. He was always known to be “on the spot.”
The Kray Twins
But by the time I was six things were looking bad for him. The Kray Brothers were beginning to move their territory out of the East End into the West End. They saw themselves as an American Mafia type of organization. There was no room for the old guys like Jack Spot. The forced him to move up North after he was attacked and badly cut by Mad Frankie Frazer. They weren’t good for my dad either.
We’d see them around, always flash and Italian suited. They looked modern and they were ruthless. They pinched my cheek menacingly. Uncle Maurice left London to live in Spain. He had the money and didn’t need their bother. So did my dad when I was eight. The heat was too intense. He burnt through his money, and couldn’t keep abreast of the new men running London. We never saw him again. I heard he’d moved to Australia.
When he left, mum moved in with another London gangster for a while. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember him punching me in the eye when I was naughty on a school holiday. Mum moved out. We settled in to moving all around London, always one step ahead of the rent collector. We no longer socialized in the milieu, but I still saw my dad’s old mates around London. They’d always tell me how big I was getting, asked after my dad, and they always gave me ten bob for sweeties.
Before I left England to live in the States an American girl, a groupie from LA, asked me to take her to see David Bowie rehearsing Ziggy Stardust at the Thomas a Beckett pub on the Old Kent Road in the East End. Boxers trained on the second floor and Bowie had taken over the gym to rehearse the Spiders from Mars.
The bars downstairs were hangouts for hard men who followed the boxers. I took my friend there at lunchtime to watch Bowie. We got there early and ordered a couple of scotches in the saloon bar. It wasn’t a good idea. I was wearing a pink suit and high heeled boots to match. My hair was dyed henna. One nasty character at the counter decided to have a go at me. He was enormous, and although I put on a load of bottle I knew I was in deep trouble, that is until a deep Cockney voice said: “If yer dad could see you now he’d piss.”
“Hey Dimes,” (Albert Dimes 1940s-1950s Billy Hills Chief enforcer) I said. “This bloke don’t like my suit.” “Neither do I,” Dimes replied. “But I find this berks’ face even more offensive. I think I’ll remodel it.” “No offense meant, mate,” my tormentor said backing off. “But, you are offensive, so piss awf before I get angry.”
David Bowie unbeknownst to me had cancelled his rehearsals that day. Dimes took us out to lunch. We mostly talked about my uncle Maurice. He’d died recently in Spain of lung cancer, I felt terribly sad. He’d always been kind to me, he’d always laughed when I was naughty, and he always gave me the best Christmas presents. No doubt they didn’t cost him much, he never touched anything that hadn’t fallen off a lorry (truck) or vacated a safe late at night when the owners were away.