BOOK: Mike unravels story of 'Fagin' thieving at London Docks from his own East End life
PUBLISHED: 14:30 20 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 December 2017
Ex-Fleet Street snapper Mike Pattison has taken time out after a career chasing "royalty and ruffians" for a national newspaper to delve into a real-life 'Fagan' crime boss.
The 80-year-old photographer has come up with a blend of facts from his own East End upbringing into fiction to blow the lid off a thieving tradition around the old London Docks in his first novel.
“This crime boss was a real character, but wasn’t quite the ducker-and-diver as I’ve painted him,” Mike reveals.
“His life of crime started in the 1940s in wartime black marketeering, learning how to steal from the docks. A cart would break open and they’d all have a bottle of rum in their back pocket that fell off the back of a ship.”
Some of his characters virtually jumped out of the pages of fiction to confront Mike in real life.
“I was at a party in Harlow and three of these characters I’ve written about were standing right there,” he recalls. “These lads were part and parcel of my own growing up in the East End, but I go into fiction and what they would do when they get older.”
He added wryly: “I’ve included their crimes, but changed the names to protect the guilty.”
Mike, who spent his career rubbing shoulders with Royalty, MPs and dodgy characters for the Daily Telegraph, isn’t about to hang up his press camera, even at 80. He runs a commercial studio in Limehouse with his daughter, down the ‘frog’n’toad’ from the old Millwall Dock gates.
His novel is about a mentor gangster who comes up through a family of three generations of thieves, his father and grandfather having passed on their ‘skills’ to him.
He now needs to hand ‘the business’ to younger men that he recruits in a pub to teach them the ‘tricks of the thieving trade’—like Charles Dickens’ Fagin in Oliver Twist.
“I used to brush shoulders with MPs, royalty and dodgy ruffians in the docks,” he remembers. “I’ve photographed the Krays and been up to the cemetery in Chingford where they’re buried. It’s all part and parcel of my life growing up in the East End which I used in the book.”
Mike has been busy since his days in Fleet Street raising funds as chairman of the Stairway to Heaven Trust which finally got its memorial unveiled on Sunday to the 173 people killed in the 1943 Bethnal Green air-raid shelter disaster.
His novel, Crime Pays Until the End, is the first part of a ‘Fagin UK’ trilogy out this week (Not Just Another Publisher, at £8.99 via Amazon).