So I was talking to Micky Fawcett. In the 1960s, he used to work with London gangsters the Kray Twins – Ronnie & Reggie.
Micky wrote what I think is the definitive book about what life with the Krays was like – Krayzy Days – but it is wider than that, putting it in the context of 1950s Soho, the Unione Corse and much more. All first-hand tales.
“You used to run long firms,” I said to Micky.
“Long firms came later,” he told me. “It was The Corner before that.”
“The Corner?” I asked.
“You target fences,” Micky told me. “The ideal ones are fences who are too greedy. You get an intro from someone who they preferably can’t contact. You say: Listen, you know So-and-So, don’t you? – Just a name you know he knows – We was going to do a bit of business with him and he said he’ll buy our stuff from us and sell it on to you. But we can cut him out, if you want to. We don’t need to give him his whack.
“So the guy says: OK, then.
“But don’t mention it to him, we say. And we tell him what we’ve supposedly got – in them days, it would be cigarettes or drink. We tell him how much we’ve got and what we want for it. The basics. Like in any deal.
“You might say: We got ‘em stored in a yard in a warehouse. You can pick ‘em up when you want. When do you want ‘em? How you gonna pay us? You’ll bring the money with you, will you, when you take ‘em? It’s the only way to do it.
“So you get that sorted out. You arrange to meet in a caff in Commercial Road opposite the Rotherhithe Tunnel and say: Listen, you’d better bring a mate with you, because sometimes you have to push another motor out of the way. Or whatever. Some excuse. Bring one of your mates with you. You might need him and we don’t wanna really be involved once we give you the keys. Alright?
“Then you meet up at the caff. Everything alright? There’s been no sniff of anything much. The Old Bill do get a bit busy round here, though. So we don’t really want any dough on show round the yard. Who’s got the money?
“You see the money, then you say: Give it to your mate. My brother’s turned up and we don’t want too many people to be seen in the yard, cos the Old Bill are fuckin’ murder round here. Let your mate wait here and we’ll go round to the yard now. I’ll show you where it all is.
“So you leave your mate with his mate and you take him to the yard and you say: Oh, it’s shut! Hang on, I’ll get the key. Don’t worry. Come with me. I hope me old woman ain’t there. She don’t stop fuckin’ talking and I don’t want her to know what’s going on but, once we got the keys, we’ll come back and do this. You’re not in a rush?
So you drive through the Rotherhithe Tunnel and, when you get to the other end, you get out to supposedly go get the key but you’d leave him roasting there.
“So what has happened is I have left my mate in the caff at the other end of the tunnel with the guy’s mate and my mate says: Oh! They been a long while, ain’t they? Shall we go round to the yard? They’ll be loaded-up by now. You’ll just jump up in the motor and away you’ll go.
“Then he says: You got that dough on ya? Give us it. And he goes round to the yard with the guy but leaves him roasting and neither of them know where the other one is. You couldn’t do it now.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Mobile phones,” said Micky. “Reggie used to find us loads of customers. He loved it, did Reggie. He would have loved to have been a con man. He mentioned it in his book. But it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. I told you about when Billy Hill conned him… with the Unione Corse. Reggie mentions that in his book, but he gets it wrong – he never woke up to it.
“Anyway, so there was that – The Corner – and there was The Jars.”
“The Jars?’ I asked.
“You’re very innocent.” said Micky. “If you ever wanna buy anything, give me a ring.”