Gangsters, Geezers & Mods an important new novel about growing up poor in Birmingham in the 60’s & 70’s by Stephen Pennell – book review by Keith Bracey AKA the Brummie Bard Birmingham poet and writer

This new compact and bijou Birmingham novel is a real BrummaGEM with so many references I connected with as a Brummie kid of the 60’s and 70’s. From Pressburgers in Bristol Street to Nelson House in the Bull Ring where I bought my two tone trousers and herringbone crombie with black velvet collar and loafers, I was a suedehead similar to a Mod like the author but we were more hirsute than skinheads and dressed like them with loafers and brogues on their well shod feet and clad in Levis Sta Prest. We were into ska and dancehall rather than The Who and Modernism but I am 5 or 6 years older than the author. Later on I recalled Hooters the risqué bar in Paradise Forum under Birmingham Central Library where I swotted for my A levels. I worked at Baskerville House for the council and we  spent every lunch hour in there! Farquhar Road features as one of the  swankiest and richest streets in Brum which I knew from parking there when I was a student at Birmingham University. Having one of the main characters (no spoilers here!) live there is a masterstroke, a neat counterpoint to the author’s poverty stricken upbringing and some of the Brummies of a previous generation who grew up in abject poverty in Birmingham back to backs which also feature in this novel. What Birmingham story doesn’t feature our famous solution to an earlier housing crisis. I am currently reading “The Girl from Hockley Brook” by Birmingham Jewellery Quarter author Kathleen Dayus, an earlier evocation of the back to backs and Brummies poverty stricken lives in the earlier 20th century. The criminal kingpin reminds me of another long dead Birmingham character Algernon Queally (why do West Indians use posh English names for their kids? Many years ago my now well retired wife worked as a bank manager at Aston Cross in Lozells. One day when going for a drink with colleagues she was mugged for her keys outside the bank branch by some crack head low life. When Algernon next saw her in the branch after a couple of months off on sick leave having suffered a broken jaw in the assault he said in his low baritone: “We will get dem” meaning the perpetrators. As Algernon was one of her customers he took the mugging as a personal assault and did not want the mugging to besmirch his impecable character and standing in the local Lozells Community and saw it as his duty to exact revenge on the miscreants. Who knows Algernon as a Lloyd’s Bank customer was probably squirrelling away his ill gotten gains in Lloyd’s Bank!!!! And the Edgbaston County Ground story! I too once was a guest in a corporate box there and hated it! I’d much rather be in The Eric Hollies with the drinkers and real fans than with the poshos and their champagne and prawn sandwiches….gimme a pint of Brew XI any time….or Ansell’s Mild! And the Villa and Paul Weller worship….I too am a devoted Villain and follower of The Modfather, preferring the solo Paul Weller and The Style Council to his days leading the angriest band in the world, The Jam. Stephen Pennell should ask his Brummie literary namesake Steven Knight to film the book. I’m sure he’d be interested! He needs a new project after the 9 year success story that’s been the Peaky Blinders. Mind you not just yet as Steven will have his hands full putting together the opening and closing shows for The Birmingham Commonwealth Games, our chance to shine, not that we don’t do so already with Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter still producing 40% of British jewellery!!! I look forward to the sequel to “Gangsters, Geezers and Mods” this gritty crime drama centred on Britain’s most creative city, definitely NOT the second city. We are the first city of invention, ingenuity and creativity, and I should know as in a previous life I worked for Locate in Birmingham the City’s former Inward Investment and Investment Promotion Agency tasked with bringing and promoting Birmingham to international businesses. We bought Deutsche Bank Overseas International (DBOI) from Mumbai to 1 Brindleyplace on Broad Street creating over 1500 fintech jobs. One of the facts Stephen Pennell omitted from “The longest sentence in a novel ever” at the beginning of the book chronicling the many things Creative Birmingham has given the world is that Birmingham has provided more patents to the British Patent Office than ANY other British city down the years – from celluloid to League Football another Aston Villa related achievement like the first League and Cup double winning team back in the Victorian era. No wonder they call us “Historians FC”! Keith Bracey Birmingham writer historian journalist and poet Please read my Birmingham and Black Country poetry history heritage and sports related articles on my Birmingham and Black Country blog: Bracey’s Bearwood blog at: You can buy the book by messaging Stephen Pennell on Facebook messenger.