City of Gangs is my second book on the history of gangs in Britain. My previous book, The Gangs of Manchester (2008), told the story of the scuttlers, Britain’s first youth cult. The Gangs of Manchester was the inspiration for Angels with Manky Faces, a multi-media production by the acclaimed MaD Theatre Company, staged in Manchester and Liverpool during 2009 and 2010 and subsequently performed by secondary schools including Manchester Creative and Media Academy and Manchester Communication Academy.
My work on Glasgow’s gangs has been published in academic journals, including Social History, Irish Historical Studies and Contemporary British History. I have also contributed to media debates on youth, gangs and crime. In the wake of the riots of 2011, I contributed a ‘thought piece’ to BBC Radio 4′s The World This Weekend and wrote a feature article on ‘Manchester’s Original Gangsters’ for the Guardian. More recently, I appeared with Gary Kemp in Gangs of Britain.
City of Gangs draws on research conducted at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, the National Archives of Scotland (now National Records of Scotland) in Edinburgh and the British Library Newspaper Library at London. When I made my first visit to Glasgow in 1995, my starting point was the series of annual indexes to the Glasgow Herald. These contained lists of every criminal trial covered by the Herald during the 1920s and 1930s. The Herald‘s reports led me into the world of the Billy Boys, the San Toy, the Kent Star and the Beehive Boys. I soon became familiar with their leading figures, men like Billy Fullerton, the Mullen brothers and Andrew Mulvey, whose notoriety lasted well beyond their own lifetimes. In the years since, I’ve followed them – in what felt like a long-running, historical detective pursuit – through the pages of newspapers, through the registers of Glasgow Sheriff Court and Barlinnie prison, through the manuscript records of High Court trials and inquiries into prison disturbances, into parish relief case-files, and finally, into the registers of births, marriages and deaths held by the Scotland’s People website. City of Gangs is my attempt to make sense of their lives and times, as well as their crimes.