Getting Kray Kray! The Profession of Violence Review

What better way to get back into blogging than a review of John Pearson’s 1995 novel focusing on the story of the infamous Kray Twins?

Reggie and Ronald Kray ruled London’s gangland during the 1960’s with a ruthlessness and viciousness that shocks even now.

Building an empire of organised crime such as nobody has done before or since, the brothers swindled, intimidated, terrorised, extorted and brutally murdered.

John Pearson explores the strange relationship that bound the twins together, and charts their gruesome career to their downfall and imprisonment for life in 1969.

Now expanded to include further extraordinary revelations, including the unusual alliance between the Kray twins and Lord Boothby – the Tory peer who won £40,000 in a libel settlement when he denied allegation of his association with the Krays -‘Profession of Violence ‘is a truly classic work.



I was prompted to read this after seeing the trailer for Universal and Studio Canal’s upcoming film Legend based upon this book and the true story of the rise and fall of London’s most infamous and successful gangsters, Ronald and Reginald Kray. I’ll embed the trailer at the end of this post which showcases the ever wonderful Tom Hardy playing both of the twins.

The book itself was a fascinating read and insight into the lifestyle that these two lived. As a reader, you’re torn between feeling disgusted at how easy it was for them to get away with all sorts crimes by twisting the law, but also a sense of admiration for how cunning they were.

Written by someone who knew the twins, it’s factual and surprisingly unbiased. Pearson leaves it up to you decide what your true opinion on the twins is. The line between liking and disliking them definitely blurs on a few occasions. The author truly gets inside the mind of Reggie and Ronnie. Showing both the vicious and the glamorous, more showbiz side to the crimes they committed. Did you know Barbara Windsor was pals with the twins back in the day? Yup, that’s right, Walford’s very own Peggy Mitchell!

Profession of Violence is a dark and informative thriller which will have you gripped. It’s utterly captivating with a lot of bloodshed. At times it can be humorous with the rare witty quip from Pearson or the twins themselves. The book is perhaps at its most emotional when it address Reggie’s first wife Frances Shea and the admittedly toxic relationship they had. The Sun had written about Frances and her suicide not too long ago and my heart absolutely aches for her. Their relationship had been doomed from the start.

It was astonishing reading how two working class boys from the East End rose through the ranks to become two of the most powerful men in Britain. They effectively ruled London. They practically ran circles around the authority and were involved in armed robberies, arson, violent assaults – which often included torture and resulted in murder – from a young age.

It’s easy to see why the Krays were seen as heroes by some. In many ways they made smart decisions which gained them their reputation. Although, I don’t want to sugar coat it, they were villains. While Reggie may have been softer and more sympathetic than his brutal and bloodthirsty twin, Ron, who thrived on the thrill of the kill, they did butcher and blackmail their way to the top.

Despite this, I do have to applaud them. While their antics could occasionally be reckless, they succeeded in making history and there’s something about their story that I find engrossing. I would definitely suggest picking this one up if you’re interesting in seeing the film adaptation. Or if you’re simply intrigued by gangsters and their lifestyle, then the Krays are definitely the ones to read about.

Watch the trailer for Legend which is out in September. (Note: I feel like the filmmakers definitely missed a beat not calling the movie ‘Kray Kray’, but whatever haha)

“Although they were obviously identical twins, Reggie was very different–thinner, quicker, with a certain shifty charm. He made most of the conversation–which to tell the truth was slightly heavy going–speaking in a rapid, almost inaudible monotone. I noticed his right hand was bandaged. (He had cut his thumb rather badly murdering Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie a few weeks earlier.)
‘How did you hurt yourself, Mr. Kray?’ I inquired brightly.
‘Gardenin’,’ he answered.”

– John Pearson, Profession of Violence: Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins





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