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  • Hodder Paperbacks
  • Hodder & Stoughton

City of Gangs: Glasgow and the Rise of the British Gangster

Andrew Davies

8 Reviews

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True crime, Prose: non-fiction, Crime & criminology

Andrew Davies, author of the acclaimed Gangs of Manchester, paints a portrait of Britain's gangland between the wars - a period when Glasgow was known as the 'Scottish Chicago'.

'A new type of criminal is in our midst - a dangerous, ruthless, well-armed man, who will stick at nothing, not even murder. He is introducing into this country the gangster methods of Chicago and New York... Trade depression has thrown into unemployment thousands of unskilled youths who have nothing to do but lounge about the street corners of our slums in gangs.' The John Bull weekly newspaper, 1932.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Glasgow gained an unenviable and enduring notoriety as Britain's gang city - the 'Scottish Chicago'. Now Andrew Davies, author of the acclaimed The Gangs of Manchester, brings to life the reign of terror exerted on Glasgow by gangs like the Billy Boys, the Kent Star, the Savoy Arcadians and the South Side Stickers. Out of the most dilapidated and overcrowded tenements in Britain, stepped young men and women dressed like Hollywood gangsters and their molls. On the city's streets, they took centre stage in dramas of their own making, fighting territorial battles laced with religious sectarianism and running protection rackets modelled on those of the American underworld.

Drawing on fifteen years' worth of original research, Andrew Davies provides compelling portraits of legendary figures such as 'Razor King' John Ross and Billy Fullerton, leader of the Billy Boys - described as the 'Al Capone' of the city's East End. He sheds new light on the way the city's police and judiciary dealt with the gangs and reveals the fascinating role played by the media in creating myths of the underworld. During what the Daily Express described as 'The War on the Gang', Glasgow's police were led by Chief Constable Percy Sillitoe (who later became head of M15), determined to maintain the image as a tough, gang-busting cop he had forged in Sheffield during the 1920s. This dramatic story, played out against the backdrop of the most volatile of Britain's cities, provides a new window onto the most turbulent period in modern British history and a timely reminder of how deprivation, unemployment and religious bigotry are a toxic cocktail in any era.

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Praise for City of Gangs: Glasgow and the Rise of the British Gangster

  • City of Gangs's success lies in its compelling detail. Every other page can turn up a surprise; if not a delight, then at least an occasional grim smile. - The Times - Mike Wade

  • Davies deftly explores the characters and crimes that defined this pivotal era. . . Meticulously researched, this is a comprehensive, compelling account of the gang culture that saw the gutters run red with the blood of a violent underworld steeped in bigotry, hatred and violence. - Daily Record

  • The image of Glasgow's infamous razor gangs could be set to change for ever thanks to the shocking revelations made in a new book. - Sunday Express

  • Gripping...a detailed picture of the gangsters who terrorised much of Glasgow. - Evening Times

  • Praise for Gangs of Manchester: - .

  • Masterly. - BBC History Magazine

  • Andrew Davies evokes the energy and excitement of gang life, their pride, their loyalty to each other, their love of fighting and their brutal excesses. - History Today

  • An important addition to the growing library on pre-fifties youth culture. - Daily Telegraph

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Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies is a Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Liverpool. He specialises in the history of crime in Modern Britain and has published widely on gangs, crime and policing. His previous book was called The Gangs of Manchester and was published in 2008.

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