Gangland Robbers by James Morton and Susanna Lobez

‘Generally, robbers do not save their money.’

In this book James Morton (a former defence lawyer in England) and Susanna Lobez (an Australian actor-turned-barrister-turned-broadcaster) write about a number of the major property crimes which have occurred in Australia since 1788.  It’s an interesting look at a diverse range of robberies:  from bank robberies to bushrangers, train robberies and other heists.  The characters include ‘Squizzy’ Taylor, ‘Jockey’ Smith and ‘Mad Dog’ Cox and others with equally interesting sobriquets: ‘The Pushbike Bandit’, ‘The Gentleman Bandit’ and the ‘Angel of Death’.

Some of these robbers have demonstrated excellent organisational abilities, while others have been quickly brought undone by their inept plotting. But it isn’t just the crimes covered in this book, Mr Morton and Ms Lobez also look at the individuals involved and those whose lives are ruined as a consequence.

Robbers may indeed see themselves as the cream of the underworld, but for some at least the thrill is in the commission of the crime.  Bernie Matthews (who committed his first robbery in 1969 at the age of nineteen) is quoted as saying: ‘It’s an exhilarating feeling.  It is an adrenaline rush that transcends emotion.’  Again quoting Bernie Matthews who saw robbery as a business: ‘If you want a hamburger go to McDonald’s.  If you want a video go to Video Ezy.  If you want money, you go to the bank.’

I found this book interesting.  While I knew the details of some of these crimes (I confess, I read a lot of true crime), there were a number I’d not heard of.  While I read this book from beginning to end, it’s the type of book I’d usually read in instalments.  There is a wealth of footnotes, together with a detailed bibliography for those readers curious to learn more.

Note: My thanks to Melbourne University Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2016

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