On the cover is a picture of Lenny McLean, with a banner, The No.1 Bestseller and a quote (from Lenny) ‘I look what I am, a hard bastard’. The book has been ghost-written by Peter Gerrard who has worked with Reggie Kray and Ronnie Knight. The back cover shows a picture of a glowering Lenny with a sweep-over bald patch, wearing a white t-short, hands clenched as fists. The background shot is the sign for The Blind Beggar pub where Ronnie Kray walked in and shot George Cornell in 1966. Nobody agreed to come forward as a witness. A barmaid that knew Ronnie Kray was made to say she didn’t. I’ve been watching the programme on STV (and ITV) about The Rise and Fall of the Krays. A voyeuristic element, but also educational and entertaining. Lenny McLean died of brain and lung cancer on 28th July 1998.
I can get away with saying that the writing reaches mediocrity. But that’s not Lenny’s fault. In Get Carter, Michael Caine plays a gangster on the rampage in the North East of England. He comes up against a character much the same height, but carrying a few more pounds (Bryan Mosley who was Alf Roberts from Coronation Street) and Carter tells him, ‘Don’t even think about it. This is what I do for a living. Hurt people.’
Lenny McLean, six-foot-two and twenty stone is proud of that. Claimed to be ‘the hardest man in Britain’. Had 2000 to 3000 fights. And never lost, but does admit a draw with fellow Eastender, and fellow hardman Roy Shaw, who also said he’d never been beaten, and makes claim to also be the hardest man in Britain. I’m sure Ronnie and Reggie Kray would claim to be the hardest men in Britain. It’s about respect and I wouldn’t argue with any of them.
In the third, deciding, bareknuckle bout, Lenny said he smashed Roy Shaw. It’s there in the warm-up bout, before the main story. Joe Pyle described as a promoter and businessman tells the reader:
I used to manage and promote the original Guv’nor, Roy Shaw. At that time, Roy was unbeaten, and unbeatable. He was taking on challenges, and the first thing I would ask was: ‘Can you sell at least £6000 worth of tickets?’ If they couldn’t they didn’t get the fight. Roy was riding a crest, then along came a young fellow from Hoxton. His name was Lenny McLean. I’d never heard of him. Roy had never heard of him. We took up Lenny McLean’s challenge. After two fights and a win each, a return was arranged and Roy walked straight into a right-hander. Lenny became the Guv’nor.’
The king is dead. Long live the king. Lenny’s proud of his uncle from the East End of London. You’d need to come ten-handed to take him down. Even then, you’d be short-handed, but not short-changed. Lenny is old school. He’s like that. There’s a lot of hate and uncontrolled aggression.
Take a step back and play amateur psychologist. Both Lenny and Ron lost their dad at a very early age and idolised them. Lenny’s stepdad was a brute. He beat all of his family and broke Lenny’s arm and leg before he was ten. Injustice grows arms and legs. Lenny learned how to hate at a very early age. His idea of justice was giving someone a slap. By that he means something short of a full-scale beating and his opponent needing several nights in a hospital bed. You don’t need to like Lenny, but you need to fear him. Respect him.
‘Faces’ are somebody of note. Villains. But in the world in which they lived a bit of sprauncing, lying and fibbing, a bit of graft was the way to get on. The busies were the enemy. And a grass lost all respect and had went over to the enemy. Disputes were settled like men by fists, bottles, knives or guns.
The straight world that most of us live in was where sheep gathered. They were there to fleece us, but they meant us no harm. Lenny was up for most work as long as it brought in a bit of money. The closest he came to insight was when he stood beside a businessman crook that had a won a council contract and was ripping of the workers who did the decorating they hadn’t been paid for. Underpaying them and telling them to take it or leave it. With Lenny beside him, they took it. But Lenny reassures the reader it’s a moral world he lives in, because he gave the dodgy business a slap, when he started working for himself and had to distemper a ceiling, and his boss told him he’d missed a bit.
Lenny McLean wasn’t going to be told what to do. Not by him. Not by anybody. When he was in prison he would have given the guy that had ghost-written a book for him a slap for suggesting his dear old mum had a drink problem. When he went to America and met with Mafia bosses—who offered him a role in Sylvester Stallone’s next picture—he was going to give them a slap. He’d raised £200 000 and needed their money to make a film about his life. They weren’t coming across. He gave a slap to someone the other bouncers had said was giving them a bit of agg in the Hippodrome. Lenny had to take care of it, because he was head bouncer. His word was law. And if you didn’t like it you got slapped.
‘Me and Robert get down to the dance floor sharpish, and there was this geezer stark bollock, naked, pissing and wanking in front of all the young girls. Dirty slag. We went to get a hold of him and he did a little dance and ran up the stairs. That’s all I needed, I was tired.’
The little ‘backhander’ turned into a murder charge when the dirty slag died.
‘I’ve belted hundreds of blokes over the years, and I mean really belted, and as far as I know, none of them died.’
The Old Bill pulled him in. Lenny got charged with the murder of Gary Humphries. That meant he was looking at life. Forty-years old he’d be drawing his pension when he came out. But the screws did a number on him. They had his nuts on a grinder, threating to pull in another bouncer that had small children to look after. Lenny did the right thing. He took the fall.
I can write this stuff all night. But you know how it goes. Good triumphs over evil. The naked guy was straight out of the nut house. If he’d been normal, he’d have dressed like the Krays in a sharp suit and behaved himself with extortion, torture and blackmail as a sideline. That way he wouldn’t have been a psychotic psychopath that murders folk instead of being murdered by the busies, while trying to frame a law-abiding hardman. Lenny took a rest from his violent life and died peaceably in his sleep. Lots of faces, old and new, attended his funeral to pay their respect.