Meet the Queen of Gangland Crime
Born and bred in Dagenham, I left school at sixteen with no qualifications and not a clue what I wanted to do in life. My mother was a tough woman, old school, and when she threw water over my head one morning, demanding I get up and get myself a job, I took myself off to Roman Road market.
“Need any help?” was my chat up line and, luckily for me, a lovely stall holder called Harold took a chance on me. I started around the back of the stall as a tea girl on eight quid a day. But I soon got promoted around the front when I rugby tackled a woman who ran off with a handful of our coats.
I spent many happy years selling ladies fashion down the Roman, until Tower Hamlets council decided to wreck the market by stopping free parking and by bringing in permits. In just six months, everyone was struggling and the best market ever was as dead as a dodo.
A big fan of music I fell into DJ-ing next, nothing special, just local pubs and clubs. It was a good laugh at the time but was never going to be a job for life, and I soon moved on to mini cabbing. I did that for ten years, working nights around the Romford area. I’d always been a bit of a wild child and led a colourful existence and used to joke to my pals that one day I’d write a book. And at 38, still driving a cab, I took the bull by the horns. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but after I got over the first chapters of Billie Jo, the rest kind of came naturally to me.
It took me a year to finish that book and then within twenty-four hours of sending it off I had an agent on the phone. Four other agents contacted me shortly afterwards and it all took off from there.
My first book deal was a small one, with a new imprint at Random House. But by the time Billie Jo hit the shelves, I’d finished my second book and signed a new contract which enabled me to give up the mini-cabbing and become a full time writer.
The Betrayer quickly followed, along with my trilogy, The Feud, The Traitor and The Victim. It was at that point that I moved to HarperCollins and penned The Schemer. My fortunes improved after I moved publisher, as my books got into the supermarkets and began to climb the charts. Getting to number 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller chart with Payback, the second in the Butler series, was literally one of the best moments of my life. It was completely unexpected and totally surreal.
However, I still can’t type and all my books are written by hand. I’m as thick as two short planks with computers and have no keyboard skills whatsoever. But I’ve tried not to let that hold me back – you can’t be good at everything.
My biggest regret is that my parents aren’t around to share my success, but I like to think that they are looking down on me.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of my readers, as well as my ex work colleagues and the brilliant team at HarperCollins. Each and every one of you have played a part in helping me get to where I am today.
My story is an unusual one, but I’m living proof you should never give up on your dreams.