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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

No Gangster More Cruel

Book Review

Anthony McIntyre • 2 December 2004

When Gerard Tuite escaped in 1980 from Brixton prison it was a fillip for morale in the H Blocks. Seven men had passed the fifty-day stage of their hunger strike for political status and an end of some sort was imminent. Although Tuite was accompanied on the escape by two other remand prisoners, for the population of the H-Blocks Tuite's was the only name we cared for. He was the sole IRA escapee. The names of the other two men meant absolutely nothing to us. So concerned were we in the contentious crucible of the prison to assert our distinctive political motivation some in our number even wondered what Tuite was doing escaping alongside hoods. Most just envied him and hoped he would evade the security dragnet that would inevitably seek to pull him back inside.

The events of Brixton Prison in December 1980 had long since slipped my mind. Then a book, Moody, arrived at the house for review purposes. I let a friend have it for a while; a former republican prisoner who had been on blanket protest at the time of the Gerard Tuite escape. On returning it he explained that Jimmy Moody was the guy who had escaped with Tuite and had since been killed. All news to me. I may not have read the book at all only the friend told me that its author alleged that Moody, after the Brixton escape, may have carried out a couple of operations for the IRA. Worth a browse for that alone.

After the first few pages I sensed I was being pulled into the grip of the book, reading over 100 pages on a single bus journey. It is so well written that the mind glides effortlessly from page to page. So immersed was I in the narrative that at one point I arrived in Armagh bus station to change buses and but for a call from the driver would not have made the transfer successfully.

Easy but unsettling reading. Jimmy Moody was a callous hit man and was not averse to torturing some of his victims. Wensley Clarkson takes his readers into 1960s London where the Krays and Richardsons were involved in vicious gangland feuding. Moody threw his lot in with the Richardsons who went on to grab the media headlines as a result of being hauled before the courts to face accusations of torture.

Clarkson does not ease up in his depiction of Moody as a ruthless London gangster. But he does try to capture the multiple dimensions that made up his personality. In a rather hybrid construction the character that is narrated to us through Clarkson is a sociopath with a human face. His utter heartlessness in murdering people he never knew in return for payment sits cheek by jowl with the grandchild-adoring cuddly grandpa bear.

From ‘pavement artist’ to blagger (gangland colloquialisms for certain types of crime) to hit man, Moody never rested as he pursued the ‘big one’ – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that would allow him to retire in comfort for the rest of his life. But it was never going to work out that way. The ‘buzz’ the gangsters got from their activities became as much a sought after objective as the booty. At one point Moody and a friend are sitting in a small boat observing the QE2 while they plan how to go about robbing it. The more daring the challenge, the greater the attraction.

Clarkson is at his best in describing the activities of Moody and his fellow gangsters when they were part of the chainsaw gang that cut open security vans to gain access to the cash supposedly safely ensconced within. Much of what comes to light here has been gleaned from police and court records. The sheer professionalism of the robbers, their ingenious planning, and their military precision jarred heavily with their post robbery behaviour. Once the adrenalin buzz had evaporated the robbers seemed to abandon caution. Many of them were eventually caught with their money close at hand.

Where the book seems particularly weak is in relation to Moody’s supposed IRA career. Allegations that he was a hit man with the organisations’ internal security department require a suspension of the reader’s critical faculties. The evidence is little more than an allusion here, an unnamed security source there. The IRA was hardly without its own large supply of ‘OBE’ (one behind the ear) practitioners that it had to rely on the services of an English gangland hit man.

Over twenty years ago I read a Carey Schofield book on a French gangster, Mesrine. That I remember the name of both book and author is evidence of the traces it left on my mind. All being well two decades from now, I think Moody and Wensley Clarkson will form a word association that brings back memories of a great read.

Moody By Wensley Clarkson. Published by Mainstream. Price £15.99




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

2 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Questions - and Doubts - Remain
Tommy Gorman

Another Crisis for Trimble?
Dr John Coulter

No Gangster More Cruel
Anthony McIntyre

Love Your Enemy More Than Your Friend
Elana Golden

Mick Hall

The Biggest Mistake They Could Have Made
Áine Fox

Danilo Anderson and Condoleeza Rice
Toni Solo

28 November 2004

Anthony McIntyre

The Cost of the Failure of Politicians is Immeasurable
Mick Hall

A Provisional Pushover
Tom Luby

Seeing What You Want to See
Eoin O Broin

Puritan Death Ethic: Ronan Bennett’s Havoc, in its third year
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Mairtin O Cadhain
Liam O Ruairc

Please Help Put A Smile On The Faces Of Palestine’s Poorest Children This Christmas
Margaret Quinn



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