If you want to follow the making of this movie, than… Read This! Here Johnny Mack talks of his life, his work thus far and his hopes for this movie. He does so in his own unique way, The subject matter is often dark, but his honesty is so brave, I challenge you not to like this man. His humanity seeps from each word and it is THIS YOU WILL RELATE TO……
Johnny Mack on London Boy & Life
When I look back over my life and how it has panned out. I still find it hard to comprehend that it
was what others have said, ’A roller coaster ride; destination, self-destruction.” Sure, I agree it has been exciting, wild, hectic with lots of fun. Yet there has also been a lot of pain, sadness and suffering…a high price had to be paid to be where I am today. I have never thought of my life as being self-destructive. As crazy as it sounds, up to the age of ten, I thought getting the shit kicked out of me was normal. Up to the age of 10 my thoughts were more in line with a pacifist’s way of thought. I did my best to avoid getting involved with violence, arguments and confrontation. But for reasons which I did not understand at that age, I became a target for racist bullies and gangs.
I am an only child to an Irish mother and an English father. Being a Catholic our family was the
odd one out because most Catholic families consisted of seven or more children.
Because of mums’ stature, all 4’ 11’’ of her, she had serious problems when she became pregnant. I had no idea of the dangers that mum faced when she tried to give me a brother or sister. She knew I was lonely and desperate for company because I would ask her why was it I never had siblings?
Mum miscarried twice and on the last occasion she actually died for a few minutes while on
the operating table.
I can remember it being a Sunday morning when I entered the living room to find mum flat
out on the sofa looking really unwell. I had no idea that she was pregnant and she fobbed
me off with a line that she had a bad case of the flu. I suppose she kept it from me this
time because she had made the mistake of telling me of her previous pregnancy. Sadly I remember my hopes and dreams being dashed in an instance when she lost it. Her trying to explain to me that God had decided to take my unborn brother to heaven to become an angel was hard to understand. I suppose she decided to keep her second pregnancy quiet from me because she did not want a repeat performance of me getting hurt again.
So I grew up as an only child and where my mother had now lost two kids she became very
protective and controlling. Looking back I can see that she was only trying to do her best to
protect me from the dangers of the outside world. It got so bad that I couldn’t even take a piss
without her asking me what I was doing. She sent me to schools that were out of the way from the area I lived. She thought by doing this I would not be able to associate with the local kids who she thought were a bad influence on me.
My father who always worked away from home, would only come home once a month and that was just for the weekend. So I never got to have a lot of “me” time with him. When he was home he would take mum out in the evening and go to the pub at lunchtime for a session. Which meant I had little contact with him throughout my childhood.
Though I had good parents, my upbringing was a very strict one, mainly influenced by my
domineering mother. Because she was Irish, she and I had more than our fair share of racial abuse back then. She got it in the work place and I got it at the schools and from the local gangs on the housing estate we lived on. But mum was a tough cookie and never stood for it and on many occasions I’d see her kicking the shit out of her racial abusers. There was one occasion that sticks with me and that was when I saw her knock out a large, frumpy, obnoxious racist of a woman with a tin of carrots and beat seven bells out her husband with a leg of lamb. But it was different for me because as I said I was a weak meek kid and could not defend myself. I was scared of fireworks, the dark and even my own shadow. This weakness was picked up on by the local kids and I would get beatings on a daily basis, both at school and on the housing estate. Each time I’d come home with a black eye, bloodied nose or worse still my clothes all ripped up, she’d go berserk. Just as my father did, my mother would send me back out to fight the bullies. No matter how scared I was, my choices were limited. Either I got a beating indoors for being a wimp, or sent out to get another kicking from the gang. The whole situation made me feel I was in a catch 22 situation, either way I lost.
That was until I was ten years of age, when my neighbour Tony Bainbridge stepped in to help stop what was happening to me. Tony was an all time gangster; he was married to South London crime boss Charlie Richardson’s daughter. On many occasions’ he’d witness me come home after getting the shit kicked out of me. Then watch me being pushed out of the door to go back out to face my attackers…and yes, get another kicking. He showed me the way of overcoming my problems by introducing me to a length of 4×2 timber. His instructions were quite simple really…plot up and wait for the gang leader, then jump out from behind and give the fucker a good hiding. I can remember being petrified waiting for this much older kid to pass by my hiding place. Because I hated violence, I found that what I was about to do was wrong and unforgiving. But what choice did I have? The violence I endured daily year after year had to stop; I wanted my mum and dad’s respect, instead of them being embarrassed of me. Before this bully was due to walk by my hiding place all these thoughts were whizzing through me. I felt for the first time, that adrenalin rush we go through when we face our demons. Then I felt for the first time pure rage, it was a manic feeling of being totally out of control. Within seconds of this bully passing me, I saw my life flash before my eyes. The beatings, the racial abuse in fact every negative thing I had been through flashed before my eyes in an instance.
I can’t really remember what happened when I jumped out of my hiding place and attacked the gang leader. What I do remember clearly, is me standing over this kid with the 4×2 broken in two, with him lying unconscious smothered in blood. From that day on my life changed to a level that I did not quite understand.
Tony, who was now my mentor, told me that what I was feeling was the receiver of respect. Even at that age those words made a lot of sense to me. It became a fact that after that incident with the gang leader all the other kid’s attitudes changed towards me. The shoe was now on the other foot because there were no more beatings, no more racial abuse; everything stopped all at once. Within a year I was leader of more than one gang and the word respect became my controller. My attitude changed, not for the better, but for the worse and I became worse than my bullies.
Aged thirteen my apprenticeship began in the criminal fraternity and my teacher was Tony Bainbridge. I started off as a bookies runner and then upped in the ranks to do more important stuff. At fourteen I got involved in the theft of a load of uncut diamonds, today they would be worth millions. That little escapade put me right up the top in the respect ranks.
That’s how my life as a gangster started; it wasn’t long before it became a way of life. The keyword to my introduction into the criminal fraternity was the all-familiar word I first heard from Tony…respect!
It became like a drug to me and no matter what, I had to do to keep it. I could not afford to lose it. Respect was my master now and if I lost it, well, I might as well be dead.
For those of you who have read my work, you know the rest of my roller coaster ride through life. I had no idea when I wrote the first part of my autobiography that it would get worldwide attention. My life today is totally different than what it was like back in the early eighties. It was then that I finally woke up and smelt the bacon. I lost so much during that transition period, that at times I believed I deserved it because it was my karma.
Going straight has not been a bowl of cherries either; again I lost everything, including my 33 year marriage to the love of my life. The house went shortly after, so did the construction company I had built up over the years. If that wasn’t enough payback, I then got cancer and was given 6 months to live. But hey, I’m a stubborn bastard and I am still here today.
Slowly my life has begun to improve and I now know that this improvement of life is all down to me writing my first book “Dunpeckham”. Honesty was the key to making “Dunpeckham” a hit. There has never been a book written where the author has written a no holds barred account of life as a gangster. I wrote about the low times as well as the high times. But believe me when I say that the low times outweighed the high times by ten fold. What gangster says he became addicted to heroin, cocaine and alcohol? What gangster leaves his ego at the door before sitting down to write about his life? And what gangster tells you that he was a failure as a husband and father? Yes, I came clean and told the truth, because ego no longer had a place in my life.
In 2009 I got in contact with award winning director Lee Hutcheon to ask him some advice about a possible film being made. My long standing best pal John Pettigrew recommended Lee to me. John and I grew up together and mixed with each other on the streets of Peckham, so I trusted him. When he told me about Lee, what I liked was the fact that Lee was very streetwise and understood where I came from. That meant he understood every word I put down on paper and above all he respected my honesty. By then Lee was at the height of his career as a world acclaimed award-winning director. He really took to “Dunpeckham” in a big way, so we discussed ways of getting it adapted on to the big screen.
This was at the height of the recession, which affected the movie business in a big way. Money was shortcoming from investors and the like, so Lee came up with a brilliant idea. Lee put together a proposal and approached Sky One TV, they were dead keen to make a six part TV drama series. What we did not take into account was that Sky wanted to do a string of crime dramas. I was only halfway through writing ‘’Landed on the Moon’’ part two of my autobiography and it would take another 2 -3 months to complete. However, Sky really needed a crime writer who had more work to offer and with me only having one and half books to date, they reluctantly declined. They went with Martina Cole the Queen of crime writers, who had accumulated a number of already published novels. Sky said that our genres were very similar but the difference between us was that my work was non-fiction and her work was fiction. They had set out to use a true-life story line, but they soon realised that would be an impossible task. Martina went on to make a mint with her adaptation of ‘The Take.’ For me just getting my work on the table of Sky One gave me just enough encouragement, which I desperately needed
to keep on writing. Lee reminded me that there is a market out there for my work and told me to keep going. He also said that getting the attention of Sky was on its own a great achievement.
Since then I finished ‘Landed on the Moon’ and wrote ‘Memoirs of a Hitman.’ However, I wanted to write Memoirs with a double plot to give it an explosive storyline. But I had been just diagnosed with cancer and had no choice but to condense it down and get it published before I snuffed it. But as I’ve already mentioned I’m a stubborn sod and refused to lay down, curl up and die. Memoirs’ is a brilliant crime novel based on experiences I had been through during my life as a gangster. The good thing is, I have left it open for the return of the characters and now my intention is to write a trilogy. But before that can happen, I have to finish ‘My Eldorado’ which is a fact based crime story. This novel will be the make or break for me in the literary world. I have now created a unique genre, which has been a massive challenge. I had to get out of writing the Johnny Mack way, if my work was to appeal to a larger audience of avid readers of crime fiction. By writing ‘My Eldorado’ I believe I have done just that.
Since the Sky episode, I would soon learn that there were more crooks in the movie business than there are in the criminal fraternity. I remember Lee warning me of such people way back in 2009. But when someone comes along and promises you the world, because they say your work is great and it has the potential to get on the big screen, you tend to believe them. I have had loads of tossers’ come by my way, all with false promises of a movie deal. The last one sounded so convincing that I contacted Lee who I wanted to direct my life story. Right up to five days before all three of us were to meet up things looked rosy. She told me that she had acquired a few million from investors and now we were ready to fly up to Scotland to meet
up with Lee to discuss the movie. The last I heard from the lying bitch (sorry it still angers me) was that she was getting the plane tickets. Can you imagine, I now had to tell Lee I had a shitzer as a partner and I wouldn’t be coming? However, Lee was not letting some lying, trumped up has been put us off making this movie.
During the interim years I had been to the US to do a bit of script work and it was while I was there I met a few investors. As they say in this business, acquire as many telephone contacts as possible, especially if the connection is involved in investment. I flew to the states and had meetings with a few of these investors and after I had explained the concept of “Dunpeckham” and what potential it would have as a movie, I got their attention.
I came away from that meeting dancing like Fred Astaire with promises of $5000,000 from three solid investors.
That was when Lee and I really got to grips with this fantastic project. He suggested we write the
script together, which for me was a mega challenge. I had only ever written bit parts in a pilot TV series and a feature film. Now thanks to Lee, I have this fantastic opportunity to be present at the start and be involved all the way through the process of making a movie.
This for me has been long in the coming, but I have always known that “Dunpeckham” would make a great British gangster movie. It may be filmed in London, England, but its potential warrants global viewing. London Boy will not just be the standard run of the mill gangster movie. It goes far deeper than ‘bang, bang give us the money?’ This one goes much deeper,
it examines the affects my life as a gangster had on my family and others. It will show the viewer the aftermath of what a gangster’s life can leave behind. It tells a story which highlights the shit times more so than the good times. There is a message in amongst this story that will definitely help others who are thinking of taking up a life of crime, stop and think again.
So London Boy will hit the screens and adjust the standard just like ‘Lock Stock’ did. A new and never tried before action film, that will dazzle the film world and delight audiences, with that “something new”, difference that they are anxiously waiting for.
I’ll keep you posted