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Doing Time with HORACE SILVER

Written by Ali Karim

Aka HORACE SILVER & JIM DRIVER (The Do Not Press)

Aka HORACE SILVER & JIM DRIVER (The Do Not Press)

Horace Silver is the pseudonym of a former armed robber turned major league drug smuggler, pimp and porn baron. He and his ‘associates’ were recently described by a senior Scotland Yard Murder Squad detective as ‘far worse than the Krays’.

One of my highlights at Crimescene 2004 was being introduced to him. His panel was electric as he pulled no punches and told the assembled his views about crime-writing and the problems he saw around him, both in real-time crime and crime-fiction.

I sought out his debut novel Judas Pig and boy was I knocked for six. It is a searing and angry read which takes a very tough and uncompromising look at the dark lives led by violent criminals and makes one want a shower after reading it. Written in first person, we walk the path of Billy Abrahams who carves a living from porn, robbery and ripping off other violent crooks. When the violence isn’t enough, the drugs kick in.

Written in a terse and impatient style, I was surprised by the narrative skill of this ex-criminal as well as the black humour that makes it possible to move through this violent and profane tale. There is no glamour, no message, apart from a nihilistic look at madness and death in a world that co-exists alongside our own.

So what is Judas Pig about?
Billy Abrahams is a criminal who makes a very good living from violence, armed robbery, operating sex shops and stealing from other criminals. But he becomes increasingly haunted by childhood ghosts and by the ever-growing influence of Danny, his psychopathic partner in crime.
Billy finds himself starting to look beyond the violence and the scams, slowly descending into a drug-fuelled netherworld that affects his judgment and his perceptions. He is finally tipped over the edge when Danny commits an act even Billy cannot stomach. And that’s when things really start to gowrong…

I worked for many years in the East End of London, and this tale is suffused with authenticity. This is a difficult book, but one that deserves to be read, even if your stomach churns and it makes you question some of the elements that comprise the human race. I have nominated it as one of my best reads of 2004 in the annual January Magazine’s shortlist.

Under cover of darkness, Horace Silver told Shots Ezine about his life and his debut Judas Pigbut we must warn you: Horace talks frankly about life and death, so if you are easily offended by profanity then heed the warning now - as his world is as dark as pitch, but his skill as a writer is as sharp as the knives that the villains in his world wield.

********

Ali:

Horace, welcome to Shots; what made you take up the pen to write a novel?

Horace:

Thanks for asking me for a chat. Having slipped out to Miami with a large amount of readies and sick of my gangster lifestyle, word got back to me that my old firm were spreading false rumours about me all over London. Outstanding large scale drug-fucks and other matters were written off by my firm against my departure, leaving them quids in and my good name sullied. Over a period of time various civilian friends of mine were kidnapped and terrorised by my old firm in an attempt to isolate me from my past. I was a burnt out shell by the time I reached the States, and it was clear to me that my days of carrying a gun were long gone. I no longer had the will or the bottle to use violence, so I decided to pick up a pen instead to settle old scores.
In Judas Pig I’ve named a few of the heavier drug-fucks my firm was involved in, alongside revelations of as yet unsolved gangland murders. On publication of the book word has slowly began to trickle out and seep into the underworld. Sort of light the blue touch paper, sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Plus, writing and then seeing my words in print has been very cathartic. The only way a boil is going to get better is when you lance it and expel all the pus. But it wasn’t until it was finished and I read it back to myself that I realised what a horrible nasty cunt I was back in those days, and how much I needed to purge myself of the poison.

Ali:

Have you been an advocate of the crime/mystery/thriller genre?

Horace:

Nah. It’s a genre that holds no interest to me. I’m a criminal that’s written a book, not a crime writer.

Ali:

Did you read true-crime books then?

Horace:

The only true-crime book I can remember reading is way back in my early twenties and that was Papillon by Henri Charriere. I read it again a few years later when I was on a laydown in nick. There I was banged up feeling sorry for myself. Then I reached the part in the story where the main character was sent to the hellhole that was Devil’s Island. Suddenly the Isle of Wight, where I was banged up, seemed like paradise by comparison.

Ali:

For the readers who have not heard about your background, could you tell us a little about your life and how you got involved in real-life crime?

Horace:

I reckon it all started when I got fucked up the arse as a kid. I declared war on the world. Later I learnt that that really I had declared war on myself. But the thing is, once you’ve been fucked up the arse, you stay fucked up the arse. I started shoplifting in my early teens, then a bit later started hanging around up Soho, bashing up and mugging nonces. I also began breaking into shops and warehouses, but never peoples’ homes.
I became a pretty tasty kick-boxer and even fought behind the Iron Curtain. I also done bits of graft for a heavy little firm out of Deptford. Bashing up debtors, stuff like that. I got hold of my first gun at seventeen and, with a pal who’s dead now, started doing robberies. In my early twenties I was introduced to the uncle of Soho Godfather, Bernie Silver. Bernie was serving life at the time for the murder of Tommy ‘Scar-face’ Smithison. He was having problems with a firm of Maltese gangsters who were squatting some of his Soho properties and not weighing on. I recruited a little firm and helped clear them out. Next thing I knew I was pulling in a nice few quid for minding those same gaffs of and making sure Bernie Silver got his dough. Some time later I teamed up with some gangsters from Canning Town. We formed a tight four man unit and moved into serious armed robbery, drug smuggling, pub protection rackets, porn, prostitution and other more serious stuff, which I can’t mention specifically because loads of it is still on Old Bill’s open files.

Ali:

And your thoughts about the gangs and how the violence has escalated?

Horace:

Violence seems more random now. Kids carrying guns as fashion accessories. Killing each other for street cred. Spraying bystanders with bullets ‘cos they don’t have the arse-hole to go in and do the job properly. When we used to go to work we got tooled up and masked up. Made sure that we used clean guns and ringed motors. We staked out our targets for as long as necessary then moved in. Job done. We’d all go our separate ways and lie doggo till the coast was clear. To this day none of us has been convicted of any of the proper graft we done. We were professionals. The kids today are amateurs. And we were fucking proper gangsters for big bucks. These kids today are only fucking over each other for peanuts and poxy bits of barren turf.

Ali:

I have to be honest and say that I was surprised at your ability in English, and the terse style you employed. Can you tell us how you approached the writing process? Did you use a typewriter, pc or was it longhand?

Horace:

It was on a pc but hey, thanks for the compliment. It took me about two years of burning the midnight oil to find my true voice. The trick that worked for me was to write how I used to think. Once I got that it made things little easier, although I still find writing a tortuous process. And thank fuck for spell check!

Ali:

In terms of drafts, I felt it to be very raw, almost angry. Would that be a true reflection vis-à-vis your writing process?

Horace:

Absolutely. At first I tried writing the book in past tense, but I found I was being too judgmental and politically correct. So as painful as it was I had to take myself back to the relevant time, forget about how people would perceive me and just write it as it was. Then it all came flooding back.

Ali:

Can you tell us what and/or who, influenced you in your writing?

Horace:

The first nonce that interfered with me when I was a kid. My ex-partner and firm, and the many lunatics I’ve met along the way.

Ali:

Have you always written?

Horace:

Only snide cheques and IOUs.

Ali:

Did you plot extensively, or did you let the muse take you where it may?

Horace:

I just let it take shape. Then when other things sprang back into my head I would see where I could place them within the context of the story. I wasn’t that bothered about the plot. I was more interested in the characters and what made them tick.

Ali:

Can you tell us about your character Billy Abrahams and where you think he came from?

Horace:

He’s a kid that never had a chance. No one to talk or turn to. His resentment built up over the years. His secrets racked him with guilt and inner turmoil. He came from deep inside me. Through this book I’ve laid him to rest. He no longer exists.

Ali:

What about the psychopaths that pepper the story? They reek of authenticity.

Horace:

They’re all real, and then some. Once you start clawing your way deep into the criminal underbelly, you hook up with monsters and sadists that you previously only met in your nightmares. Before you know it, killings and maimings are just part of your normal everyday existence. But one thing I’ve learnt along the way is that underneath all the sadism and brutality, all the lunatics I’ve ever met are nothing more than terrified little boys. Emotionally they’re all still in short trousers. They make up for their inadequacies by inflicting their pain on others.

Ali:

What is your take in the way violence is portrayed within the genre? Judas Pig has some rather shocking moments.

Horace:

Yeah, returning to your previous point, I changed some names to protect the guilty. But those in the know who they are. Our firm fucked over nearly every top London villain. I’ve used the real names of those that are dead, like Ronnie and Reggie Kray for example. And looking back - forget their media images. Believe me, they’re all a major disappointment as human beings. Ronnie Kray for instance was a fucking embarrassment. Complete fruit and nut job with no grasp of reality. We fucked him off early in the equation, but then his twin Reggie begged us to visit him. Another fucking disappointment. We went to see him in Gartree top security nick. I swear to God he looked like Norman Wisdom. Me and my partner ‘Danny’ ended up eating all the chocolate biscuits his boyfriend had bought him in the nick canteen. Despite that they sent us the contract for their movie. We ran with it for a little while, but it was a complete waste of time. It would have been easier trying to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to a camel than do sensible business with those two dinosaurs. So we fucked Reggie off as well. The film as you know eventually got made with the Kemp brothers. And in my mind it was a right load of Spandau Bollox!!
You see I don’t really follow the genre but there’s two main types that piss me off. First up you’ve the sad old git supposed-gangsters popping up on the box in their horrible suits and walnut whip haircuts, spieling out war stories as old as the Ark. They think the world owes them a living ‘cos they spent their childhood dodging doodlebugs and ended up being arsewipes for Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Their books are nothing more than piles of warmed-over horseshit. On the other side you’ve got patronising gangsters’ molls like Jake Arnott writing public schoolboy porno and getting lapped up by the liberal media. Honestly, that prick don’t stop pontificating about a subject he knows nothing about. And it’s all plundered material. I sweated blood for my book. Luckily it was mostly other people’s. Arnott don’t have a fucking clue what real violence is about. If he’d have spent one night with our firm back in the day he would have shit his fucking public schoolboy pants so much, he would be churning out gardening books now instead of shit crime novels.

Ali:

I read Judas Pig in one sitting and felt I needed a shower afterwards. What do you feel when a book affects someone that way?

Horace:

I guess a job well done. I consider Judas Pig to be a much needed antidote to the mountains of bland mockney cack currently infesting the nation’s bookshops.

Ali:

Quite obviously Horace Silver is a pen-name, so are you a jazz follower?

Horace:

Yeah, bebop. Cats like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were blowing stuff sixty years ago that most people still can’t get their heads round today.

Ali:

What has been the reaction by people in the underworld following Judas Pig’s release?

Horace:

Book Jacket, Judas PigThe ones mentioned in the book ain’t happy about being caught with their trousers round their ankles holding nothing but their pricks. Others have applauded me for setting the record straight. My ex-partner has gotten extra paranoid expecting recriminations and has installed an extensive closed circuit system in the grounds of his Essex mansion. Apparently he also sent someone into a bookshop in East London with a copy of Judas Pig. The moosh threw it on the desk and screamed at the bookseller, ”That cunt’s named too fucking many names.” Great recommendation, eh! The bookseller ordered a shit-load of new copies. The only better one I’ve had was being turned down by the Richard and Judy book club.

Ali:

Can you tell me how the cover came about because it does look like you?

Horace:

We were running late to press and couldn’t come up with anything we liked. So we decided on some moody shots in the Greenwich foot tunnel. I don’t expect to be heading for the catwalk anytime soon.

Ali:

Are you still in hiding from your former cohorts?

Horace:

Fucking right, big time. They even know I spend most of my time down in Miami. But they’re fucked on that score. All the connections down that neck of the woods are mine. I’ve done so many favours down there that my Cuban pals won’t give me up. Which means that if my old firm wants to hit me there they’ve got to find someone mad or stupid enough to put themselves right on offer. It’s hard enough getting into America nowadays just for a straight holiday, never mind to try and top someone. Thank you Osama! And even if I do end up with one in the nut down on South Beach they still got the death penalty in Florida. It’s gonna take someone with copious amounts of bottle to risk ending up strapped in Ol’ Sparky. Obviously I’m a lot more at risk when I occasionally slip into the UK. But I’m a stickler for security, and none of us are getting any younger. Maybe I’ll make old bones, maybe I won’t. But if, a good few years up the road you read about some old gangster having their nut blown off in a London street and the assailant makes his getaway on a Zimmer frame, don’t cry me no tears I’ve had a good fucking life.

Ali:

How did you stumble across Jim Driver’s The-Do-Not-Press?

Horace:

Just walked into a book shop and looked in the crime section.

Ali:

Back to your reading; what books impressed you in 2003/4? And why?

Horace:

Bloods by Wallace Terry. A haunting account of black soldiers in Vietnam. Very humbling. Here were men press-ganged by a duplicitous government into fighting for ‘freedom’ in a foreign land, when they didn’t even have equal rights in their own backyard.

Ali:

What are you working on currently? And will you continue working in the crime/mystery genre?

Horace:

I’m not quite sure what it’s about yet. I’ll keep you posted. But just as my life has moved slowly away from crime, then so will my writing.

Ali:

Thank you for your time and good luck with the book; a seriously entertaining read, and one of my top books in 2004 even if it shocked this crime reader!

Horace:

Thank you. And once again, thank you for your support.


Shots Ezine passes thanks to Jim Driver for organising this interview Check out The-Do-Not-Press for one of the most eclectic range of crime fiction.

www.thedonotpress.com

 

  


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Horace Silver



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