The first of these books, Rough Justice, is 350 pages of documentary journalism on the rise and fall of the notorious Richardson gang, which operated a reign of terror, extortion and fraud in parts of London from the late 1950s to the famous torture trial of 1967. These operations were restored to topicality after Charles Richardson's escape from prison in May 1980 and his subsequent letter to the Times. The first question which needs to be asked is whether such books should be written at all. And if they are written, should any serious notice be taken of them? The existence of violent, sadistic and resourceful criminals is an unhappy fact of life, and even if the author goes to considerable pains to underline their culpability and to scorn their protestations of innocence, which Mr Parker certainly does, there is no doubt that this type of highly personalised saga (it is 'Charlie' and 'Eddy' throughout) invites a substantial degree of sympathy with the villains and dignifies their lives with attention they ill deserve. These, however, are difficult questions to answer in relation to the present book. It is meticulously researched and compellingly written, for all its affectedly brawny style. But does it contribute anything other than a chronology of cheerless greed and foul deeds set against a background of scrap dealers and flashy night-clubs? The answer, delivered with considerable reluctance, is yes, this is a useful book for criminologists and laymen alike.
LRB 15 July 1982 | PDF Download