Top Drawer Villain – Eddie Blundell
—like a punch in the mouth — like a kick in the ribs’
Have you read Eddie Blundell’s Top-Drawer Villain . . . ?
In August 2012, Amanda Blundell invited me to write her husband’s life story. He was, she emailed me, ‘a successful business man as well as a gangster, greatly respected among criminals.’
But I had already been mulling over the idea of complete retirement. Wasn’t it time to pack up writing? I’d been at it since retiring as a schools inspector in 1988. I’d already written more than twenty books, both fact and fiction. I’d been traditionally published and self-published; I’d won a number of writing awards such as the South East Arts Prose Prize and the National Association of Writers Groups award for ‘best novel.’ And here I was, well into my eighties, being asked to start a new piece of work. Surely it was to put my feet up.
But Amanda’s proposal was tempting. But the man…who was he? I knew nothing about him. Could I have some details about him?
The material I asked for came within days. It comprised several newspaper cuttings and some memoirs compiled by family members. Although incomplete the contents were absorbing. Eddie Blundell was a genuine tough guy with a nose for business.
Immediately after release from Borstal he’d been involved in stealing and ‘slaughtering’ (concealing) heavy-goods lorries. But he soon found out another way to make what he called ‘real money’. In his early twenties he bought a clapped-out ice-cream van and went on to build a hugely successful business, Piccadilly Whip. He worked hard at it and, despite spells inside, he became a millionaire.
For thirty years from the 60s, Eddie’s business success was won and maintained with muscle. Rivals, often Turks and Italians, were vying for the choice sites in London – The Tower, Hyde Park, Madame Tussauds, Speakers Corner, Park Lane. They fought with fists, with bottles, iron bars or whatever was at hand.
Fortunately for Eddie there were always enough corrupt senior policemen to massage out of existence any evidence of wrongdoing.
There were other incidents. He was seriously wounded in a gun fight in Ilford High Road. At Weeley in Essex he and his ‘crew’, there to provide catering services, put to flight a mob of rampaging Hells Angels.
Then, after so many years, came the fall: a charge; the sudden lack of police support; a trial; a four-year sentence; investigations by the Inland Revenue. On release Eddie Blundell was no longer a very wealthy man.
So this was the initial material I had to work on, information I had to mould into a book. I pondered for at least three minutes about whether I should accept the proposal. But of course, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
The fact that Eddie lived in Essex and I in Sussex wasn’t a problem. At regular intervals, he recorded his story onto disk and Amanda used to type it up and email it to me. My new version would be returned for Eddie’s agreement or clarification. Back and forth went the material, refining, polishing.
This system worked very well. My principal task was to rearrange the sometimes confusing account into a coherent story. On the few occasions on which I met Eddie and Amanda, we resolved, in the course of lengthy discussions, any inconsistencies.
There were two major problems. How could I write an account which contained so many violent incidents which I disapproved of? And there were matters that Eddie was clearly reluctant to disclose. That was why I decided to ghost-write the story rather like a Defence Counsel, working my way round or through any issues that might embarrass my client. The story would be written from his point of view. His name and not mine would appear on the book cover.
The second difficulty was Eddie’s frequent use of strong language. Would this deter readers? When I asked Eddie’s opinion on this I had my answer.
‘Yeah,’ he told me, ‘that’s how I talk. It’s me, my language.’
So I went ahead, always endeavouring to shape the masses of information that I’d received, trying to capture Eddie’s manner of speaking and never shirking his florid vocabulary.
In November 2013, after eighteen months compiling and revising and the exchange of huge quantities of material, ‘Top-Drawer Villain’ was published. It’s the story of a man of whom I ought to disapprove. And in some ways I do disapprove of the manner in which he so often conducted his business. Even so, I’d say that now we are friends. I can’t account for it but I like the man. Odd.
I’ve often wondered what he has got out of having his book published. He has never tried to justify his career in crime. He’s not seeking fame. Maybe it’s just his way of analysing his life as he’s lived it.
And what have I got out of it? What every writer hopes for – satisfaction for having good material out of which to fashion a decent book which has won good reviews and has been featured on BBC Radio Two’s Steve Wright Show.
It’s been a great writing experience. But now I’m finished writing. That’s it. Unless of course I receive another tempting phone call. In that case…
‘Top-Drawer Villain’ by Eddie Blundell was published in November 2013 by Pomegranate Press, Lewes. It is available from Amazon.co.uk as both a paperback (£7.99) and an ebook (£5.99). Paperback versions are also available from either ebay.uk
Hear what Eddie Blundell himself has to say…
|SummaryA great read||5|