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Bibliophile price: £4.50
The BBC TV series Peaky Blinders was a hit from its first showing in 2013. Transforming our perception of Birmingham of a century ago with swagger, glamour and extreme violence - not to mention a visceral soundtrack - we see the charismatic yet deeply flawed Shelby family prowl the second city's dingy backstreets leaving bloody chaos in their wake as they strive to remain the Birmingham's top gang. But who were the real Peaky Blinders, and how close to the truth is the show? Leading historian Prof. Carl Chinn discovered his own PB heritage back in the 80s and is himself the son of an illegal bookmaker and was thus able to draw on a wealth of totally original photos and interviews with family and friends to write this book. First myth to dispel is that the name was not derived from the practise of fitting razor blades to the specially stiffened peaks of their flat caps to create a fearsome weapon. While some real-life PBs may have done this, the real reason was their fashion for pulling the peak of their cap to one side of their heads, thus covering (or blinding) one eye. Secondly, there was not one gang called the Peaky Blinders. It was a generic term for the city's roughs that came into use in the 1890s and was interchangeable with "slogging gangs", itself a label for any gang member with a predilection for violence. Weapons were belts, stones, knives, coshes and boots and these people were not glamorous - they were brutal and vile, and eventually put to flight by strong police action led by Chief Constable Charles Rafter. Whether you want the truth behind the TV, or have an interest in the history of Birmingham, this is the book for you. Packed with miniscule detail and the kind of insights and information that only come from close association. Many photos, 276pp paperback.

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