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Saturday, 3 March 2012

OF THE six in my crew, I’m the only one left alive – some were murdered and two ended up taking cocaine overdoses


04:21 | ,

 

‘OF THE six in my crew, I’m the only one left alive – some were murdered and two ended up taking cocaine overdoses.” Johnny Mack’s matter-of-fact admission is testimony to the distance he has journeyed from life as a South London villain, coming of age on Peckham’s Pelican Estate in the 1970s. Now a churchgoing pillar of the community in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, it is hard to picture him rubbing shoulders with notorious “faces” in London. But there is no swagger or bravado as he recounts the highs and lows of a life that took him to the depths of despair: a spell in prison, and heroin and alcohol addiction which wrecked his marriage and put distance between him and his four children. But with the fighting spirit that gave him a mean reputation on the underground boxing circuit, Johnny pulled himself together and – from the bottom of a bottle – a crime-writing career began. Johnny’s first offerings, Dunpeckham and Landed On The Moon, attracted the attention of film-makers, with ongoing talks for a feature film and a TV series. The books give graphic accounts of his life growing up, disinterest in school and being expelled twice. Lured by the heady excitement of colourful gangsters such as Charlie Richardson, Frankie Fraser and Buster Edwards, his descent into drug-dealing with run-ins with London’s elite criminal fraternity was rapid and inevitable. Memoirs Of A Hitman is his first foray into fiction. Johnny told the South London Press: “The other two books are realistic because they cover things that actually happened – my involvement in illegal boxing, the drug dealing and work as an tunneller in a crime outfit. “I started out selling stolen goods from a suitcase in Rye Lane Market and was a father by my 16th birthday. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do now with young offenders if I hadn’t lived it.” The 54-year-old’s tale of a “face” – someone respected or feared – whose marriage breaks down and who wants to leave his criminal antics to start afresh with his new girlfriend draws heavily on his own experience. He said: “There are characters who will be recognisable to some. They don’t know they’re in the book. One is doing a 30-year stretch in Belmarsh. But it’s fiction. “I’m coming to the end of a four-book deal and the books have done well. I worked for [notorious criminal] Mr Richardson Senior on Westminster Bridge, then as a bookie’s runner. “I got mixed up with Charlie Richardson, who was sent down at the same time as the Krays. Eventually I was banged up in Brixton on remand for an armed robbery which I hadn’t done and I was sharing a cell with a heroin dealer. “I was anti-drugs because I knew if you were on them no one would trust you. “But one day, after hours of questioning, I was depressed because I didn’t know how to get myself out. I asked the dealer for something to mellow me out. “When I got out I was hooked on heroin and just couldn’t get off it.” Soon the life of an addict took its toll. Johnny’s wife left London and told him to get his act together before he was allowed to rejoin the family in 1983. Johnny said: “I was running spielers – illegal drinking dens. But I booked myself into a hotel and went proper cold turkey. “I was talking to dead people for days. "I haven’t touched it [heroin] since. “I moved to the Isle of Wight, did a few straight jobs working in boatyards and started up a building company but got stitched up and it went under. I was drinking for about 20 years, reached rock bottom and lost everything. “But I was always telling stories and someone told me I should write them down. So I gave up drinking and wrote Dunpeckham.” Four years later, Johnny’s stock is rising. He sees his time as a face as part of a golden era in criminality and makes no apologies for his pre-epiphany past. “It’s all about the the ego with a lot of these nippers now – very amateurish,” he said. “They don’t last long. There is no honour among criminals any more. No one would have dreamed of mugging an old lady or robbing a working-class man. I never worked the pavement. “I was never a grass so there aren’t many who have anything against me. “When they found out about the drugs, most turned their backs.” Memoirs Of A Hitman is available on Amazon, priced £6.


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