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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
From crime fact to crime fiction
Paul Ferris graphic
BBC News Online's Chris Summers meets the former king of the Glasgow underworld, who is seeking to reinvent himself as a novelist.

The name Paul Ferris once struck fear into the cold hearts of Glasgow's hardest criminals.

But the former gangster is hoping his name will soon be ranked alongside great authors such as Ian Rankin and James Ellroy.

Ferris's life of crime
1983: Starts out as an enforcer for Arthur Thompson Sr
Aug 1991: Thompson's son, Arthur "Fat Boy" Jr, is shot dead
Sep 1991: Ferris's friends, Bobby Glover and Joe Hanlon are murdered.
Jul 1992: Ferris acquitted of murder
Jul 1998: Jailed for seven years at the Old Bailey for gun-running
Ferris, 38, was released from Frankland prison in County Durham in January after serving four years of a seven-year sentence for gun-running.

He freely admits his guilt but says he wants to turn his back on a life of crime.

Ferris says he plans to use his experiences to write crime fiction books which will be more "realistic" than those currently on offer.

But he also hinted that, when his parole licence expires in August, he may also return to the security industry.


Prior to his arrest he was involved with a company, Premier Security, which had an annual turnover of £6.2m and Ferris believes he could still be of use as a security consultant.

"To use the old cliché: it takes a thief to catch a thief," he said.

But he insisted he would not be involved in protection rackets or "strong-arm tactics", as had been reported in some Scottish newspapers.

Ferris was acquitted of murdering Arthur 'Fat Boy' Thompson Jr
Ferris has already co-written his biography, The Ferris Conspiracy, and this month sees the publication of his first novel, Deadly Divisions.

Ferris began his criminal career as an enforcer for the notorious Thompson crime family in Glasgow.

But he fell out with Arthur Thompson and was later charged with the murder of his son, Arthur "Fat Boy" Thompson Jr, in 1991.

Ferris was acquitted of the murder but while he was on remand two of his best friends, Bobby Glover and Joe "Bananas" Hanlon, were shot dead in what is widely believed to have been a revenge shooting.

'Crime was a temptation'

In The Ferris Conspiracy he added to the mystery surrounding the murder of "Fat Boy".

Ferris maintained he was innocent but said the murder was carried out by a hitman known as "The Apprentice".

He told BBC News Online The Apprentice had his own reasons for killing Thompson.

Ferris said he had now given up crime which, he said, had always been a financial temptation.

Arthur Thompson Sr
Ferris was originally an enforcer for Glasgow godfather Arthur Thompson Sr
But he said he believed he could make a good living as an author and said his benchmark was Rankin, the Edinburgh University graduate who can now command advances of £1.2m from publishers for his books about Inspector John Rebus.

He said Deadly Divisions, which is the first of a trilogy known as the Spectre Chronicles which he is co-writing with journalist Reg McKay, was the "acid test".

The eponymous central character of the Spectre Chronicles is a Scarlet Pimpernel-type criminal called James Addison, who is hunted by dodgy policeman DCI Birse and his underworld ally Andy Grimes.

'A touch of realism'

The plot of the first book involves a stash of pre-war Bearer Bonds and the race to turn them into cash.

Roger Tagholm, who works for Publishing News, said: "Ferris stands a better chance than most of making it, as he has an insider in many ways and has already done the research."

"He perhaps has contacts within the criminal world and knows what he's talking about, so that should help him."

Ferris said: "We feel that we can bring a touch of realism, and cutting edge grittiness to crime fiction which is not there at present."

There have been numerous stories in the Scottish press that there was a contract out on Ferris's head.

Paul Ferris in Glasgow bar
Paul Ferris says crime is in the past now
But Ferris told BBC News Online these contracts were a "myth".

He said he first heard about a £50,000 contract on his life when he was acquitted of the Thompson murder.

But he said: "Here we are ten years later, and I've hardly been a recluse, and I'm still here."

He said he had only ever been a threat to police informers, such as the Glasgow gangster known as The Licensee, who he had sought to expose.

But now he says he is hanging up his guns and his biggest fear will be writers' block.

His co-author, Reg McKay, says: "Paul knows crime like the back of his hand so we think we can make this work. We want to write like James Ellroy, only better."

Paul Ferris talks to BBC News Online
"People have been saying for 10 years that there's a contract on my head but it's a myth"
Paul Ferris talks to BBC News Online
"You'll never eradicate (police) corruption, just as you'll never eradicate crime."
See also:

21 Jan 02 | Scotland
Ex-gangster out of jail
23 Jul 98 | UK
Gun-running trio jailed
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