The demise of the notorious gangster, Dave Courtney, whose life ebbed away under the mysterious veil of a gunshot wound at the age of 64, has once again thrust the curious allure of “gangsters” into the spotlight. One can’t help but be intrigued by the increasing preoccupation with the dark underbelly of true crime, and one can’t shake the notion that, at its core, it’s a matter deeply intertwined with the primal forces of human desire—yes, even the kind that’s tinted with shades of the illicit.
Image from bbc.com
In the days of yore, in a less sophisticated epoch, individuals of brawn over brains were the apex catches. However, in this modern age, where the realm is dominated by intellectual titans such as Musk and Zuckerbergs, the Neanderthal figure seems relegated to a relic of a bygone era. Yet, to the dimmer echelons of society, who’ve never harbored aspirations of contributing their grey matter to scientific endeavors, the primal allure of the brutish remains strangely intact. While dating a bank robber may ostensibly appear as an affair driven by the allure of lucre, there’s an undercurrent of anticipation that this rogue might excel in the realm of passion more ardently than a mundane bank clerk ever could. The spirit of D.H. Lawrence, in all his wisdom, once mused on the notion that the proletariat had an intensity in their intimate pursuits far surpassing the bourgeois and the aristocrats. But one is led to believe that Lawrence’s perspective had never been privy to a glimpse of the labyrinthine peculiarities of a certain nocturnal escapade in my erstwhile marriage.
Dave Courtney, one might contend, was possibly the genuine article.
It’s an extraordinary facet of human curiosity that extends even into the elevated realms of artistry. Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino have etched their legendary careers by weaving tales around these enigmatic “hard men,” with some of Morrissey’s finest verses casting shadows upon the same mysterious archetype. The reality television queens of “The Only Way Is Essex” are no exception, as they giddily chatter about their preference for the “Bad Boy,” believing it to be as cheeky as sneaking in a quick spray tan during their lunch breaks. Yet, the actuality of such encounters often presents a stark contrast, where romantic entanglements may jeopardize lucrative endorsement deals when one’s paramour decides to fling acid indiscriminately in the midst of a nightclub revelry.
Image from mirror.co.uk
But, let us pause to examine whether these young men of questionable character are indeed cut from the same cloth as the notorious Kray twins, those psychopathic overlords who ruled with fear and profited through nefarious protection schemes. Or could it be that these are mere “plastic gangsters,” individuals who’ve imbibed too heavily from the well of Vinnie Jones’ cinematic exploits? The Urban Dictionary, the oracle of modern slang, defines a “plastic gangster” as follows:
“A wannabe gangster. The sort of things that a Plastic gangster might get up to are; 1. Telling other people to do things. 2. Getting other people to fight for them. 3. Generally doing everything that real gangsters would do, but with less conviction and intent. And then, when they get in real situations, they always wuss out of the whole thing. Like if they could smash up a fence, they’d be like, nope, sorry. Gotta go home for a bath…or something.”
Dave Courtney, for his part, may very well have been the genuine article. Born into the lap of respectable, hardworking parents, he eschews the convenient excuse of a deprived upbringing and concrete jungles bereft of love. His journey commenced with a bit of light pilfering from Woolworths, where his mother ironically worked as a store detective. At the tender age of 13, he delved into the world of robbery by targeting a toy warehouse, and his career took an insidious turn toward burglary.
Dave Courtney Movies
- Mob Handed (2016)…Tank Killer
- Gangsters Gamblers Geezers (2016) … Terry
- Full English Breakfast (2014)
- Fraud (2011) … Vice.com
- Killer Bitch (2010) … Dave
- The Dead Sleep Easy (2008) … Tlaloc
- Clubbing to Death (2007) … Harry Dench
- Six Bend Trap (2006) … Gordy Metcalf
- Hell to Pay (2005) … Dave Malone
- The Baby Juice Express (2004) … Baxter
- Triads, Yardies and Onion Bhajees (2003) … Mad Dave
- Dave Courtney’s Underworld (Documentary) (2000) … Himself
- One in Something (1999) … Judge
- The Krays (1990) … Bill
Image from cinemaparadiso.co.uk
Fascination with the Kray twins courses through his veins, as he fondly recalls their quasi-regal treatment, equating the loss of Ronnie Kray to the demise of a monarch. He, quite literally, stood sentinel over the deceased gay gangster and even went so far as to liken his funeral to Winston Churchill’s. Dave Courtney ascended the ranks to become a “debt collector” and bouncer before establishing an agency that supplied brawny “doormen” to pubs and clubs, amassing a fortune that enabled him to acquire a schoolhouse, later transformed into “Camelot Castle,” under the banner of Saint George.
What is intriguing is the inherent conservatism of the gangster persona. Though they remain outsiders by societal standards, they rarely assume the mantle of rebels. Invariably, they perceive society as having grown “soft,” viewing themselves as champions of traditional values—even when, as Dave Courtney did, they embark on senseless attacks against innocent Chinese waitstaff with machetes.
The oft-repeated mantra, “They only ever hurt their own,” serves as a thoughtless justification for the terror these figures inflicted upon ordinary working-class folks, such as shopkeepers. The implication is that, in some twisted manner, these thugs maintained a semblance of order. However, it is always a grave mistake to paint the law of the jungle with a veneer of benignity. In the present repugnant wave of abuse directed at shop workers by parasitic thieves too indolent to seek gainful employment, one can detect an eerie echo of the protection rackets that had long plagued the working-class populace.
Image from thegaurdian.com
It is, perhaps, understandable that the privileged denizens of television studios, who have never had to dwell among these brutes, might romanticize them as characters imbued with the allure of balaclavas-clad intrigue. Still, it remains that many individuals hailing from working-class backgrounds share a deep-seated belief in capital punishment. This sentiment is rooted in experiences marked by the haunting memories of young girls, victims of sinister predators who derive pleasure from their pain. It is a conviction that collides with the posh proponents of the Howard League for Penal Reform and their ilk, who often ardently advocate for the rights and freedoms of even the most heinous criminals, from rapists to murderers.
Dave Courtney Publications
- (1999). Stop the Ride I Want to Get Off. Virgin Publishing.
- (2000). Raving Lunacy. Virgin Publishing.
- (2001). Dodgy Dave’s Little Black Book. Virgin Books.
- (2003). The Ride’s Back On. Virgin Books.
- (2005). F**k the Ride. Virgin Books.
- (2006). Heroes & Villains. Virgin Books.
- Jim Dawkins; Dave Courtney (2008). The British Crime and Prison Quiz Book. Foreword by Charles Bronson. Apex.
In the contemporary landscape, we are confronted with the chilling reality that rape has been effectively “decriminalized,” a proclamation made by Dame Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner. Moreover, thousands of inmates serving short sentences are slated for early release due to prison overcrowding, particularly concerning individuals incarcerated for domestic abuse and stalking. This announcement raises concerns for the safety of victims, an issue that the Ministry of Justice must address with utmost seriousness.
Nonetheless, amidst this disconcerting backdrop, women continue to immerse themselves in the tidal wave of True Crime narratives. Dave Courtney, for all his transgressions, was never wanting for female companionship.
In the pursuit of a delicate balance, one must opine, with all due trepidation, that the fetishization of and fascination with violent crime signifies something inherently amiss in the psyche of the observer. Whether it be the commuter engrossed in the accounts of “Diamond Dave,” imagining the thrill he must have experienced, or the hipster whose default setting for date night involves a rendezvous with Netflix and a murder mystery, the undercurrent of this fascination hints at a profound dissonance in our society. It is a troubling sign that warrants reflection, for the boundary between intrigue and obsession remains an enigma unto itself.