Brought to book

Gordon Williams

  • Ronnie Biggs: His Own Story by Michael Joseph
    Sphere, 238 pp, £7.95, March 1981, ISBN 0 7181 1972 X
  • A Sense of Freedom by Jimmy Boyle
    Pan, 264 pp, £1.25, September 1977, ISBN 0 330 25303 4

Train-robber Biggs and murderer Boyle present in their testaments a challenge to our moral reflexes. Both authors have appalling records: South Londoner Biggs with countless petty interviews, conspiracy to commit biography, and now brazen autobiography executed in ruthlessly-priced hard-back, plus indecent exposure on a Sex Pistols waxing: Glaswegian Boyle with an audaciously publicised apologia here compounded in paperback, cold-blooded participation before the fact in a television film witnessed by millions of law-abiding citizens, and flagrant indulgence in the plastic arts (to wit, sculpture with a sharp instrument) under the very noses of the prison authorities. Clearly, as media recividists, they risk consignment to the living tomb of contemporary British writing. Many would have them rot as unpersons in the dank obscurity of the Booker Prize.

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