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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Antony Lopez

Antony Lopez was the author of five novels for New English Library in 1975-76 but nowadays is better known for writing verse and writing critical volumes on poetry. Born in Stockwell in 1950, he was educated at local schools in Brixton, South London, and Henry Thornton Grammar School. He worked briefly as a freelance writer before the opportunity arose to take up further education at the University of Essex and at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. He then began teaching American Literature at Cambridge, and later taught at Leicester University (1986-87) and Edinburgh University (1987-89); he then joined the University of Plymouth where he was appointed first Professor of Poetry in 2000 and Emeritus Professor of Poetry in 2009. During this time he has also been a regular performer at art and poetry events, winning a number of awards for his works. He is now self-employed.

When in his early twenties, Tony was having the occasional story accepted by newspapers and magazines but was not earning enough to make a living. He decided to try a novel, writing The Second Coming, which ended up at New English Library in around 1973. "It took a long while to sell it and then a while to appear," Tony recalled recently. You can find an extensive review of the book at the Vault of Evil British horror forum.

Although The Second Coming was speculative fiction, New English Library were publishing a number of books in series; avoiding horror and hells angels, he was asked to write a series about American gangsters, which Tony agreed to write. "I wrote those books very fast, taking incidents from non-fiction crime books, gangster biographies, and stringing them together. I expect that the staff at NEL rewrote what I sent."

The Hoods appeared under the pseudonym Vincente Torrio. In an interview, Tony recalled "My agent was very good at contracts and rights, got me a better deal than I had with the first book. I wrote very fast, one book in ten days, didn’t have any other income, and we sold the books several times over, so that was good. I have a set in Danish somewhere. I don’t know if the other translations were ever done or just rights purchased."

After four novels, he became dissatisfied with the series and a medical crisis led him to give up writing for NEL. After travelling to New York, he found that he could attend university as a mature student and be paid (a little) to study; back in the UK, he worked at a publishing firm dealing with proofs and advertising copy until he became a student.

The Hoods : 1 Executioner
New English Library 0450-02611-6, Oct 1975, 124pp, 35p. Cover: photo
The Hoods are... An explosive new series exposing the violence of Chicago in the 20s.
__Jim Sheridan. He's the hero. He grew up with the street gangs, learned his business the hard way. He's a pusher, a fast climber with ambition. In this story he becomes a hit man, the executioner. It's the first step up the ladder to the top.
__Ed Corso. He's the small-time crook whose organisation becomes too big to handle. He's the man Jim makes his mark.
__Louis Banks. He's the businessman who advises Corso, and hides when the heat is on. His ambition is to take over Corso's stake.
__Izzy the Rat is a gang leader. He fights like a rat, he's a psychopathic killer, and he's Ed Corso's Number One enemy.
__This series is a reconstruction of the life and crimes of the Chicago gangsters who operated throughout the depression and prohibition eras. Their trade was violence, corruption, gambling, prostitution, drug abuse—anything illegal that made money and lost souls.
The Hoods : 2 Bootlegger
New English Library 0450-02728-7, Oct 1975, 128pp, 35p. Cover: photo
Louis Banks, shady lawyer, took over Ed Corso's mob when Ed was gunned down. But Jim Sheridan, the man who made the hit, the man Louis double-crossed, biding his time over the border in Mexico. He wanted a share, his share, in the mob's new-found wealth.
__For the National Prohibition Act, which became effective in America at 12.01 a.m. 17 January, 1920, had produced a new source of illegal wealth for the rapacious mobsters While the American people danced and drank in speakeasies the gangsters made loot, gained power, killed and maimed the law and the rival gangsters.
__So revenge and greed occupied Jim Sheridan's mind — Louis was the target.
The Hoods : 3 Politician
New English Library 0450-02767-8, Jan 1976, 126pp, 40p. Cover: photo
Jim Sheridan and the Syndicate have the town of Chicago sewn up. The police are in the pocket of the gangsters; the speakeasies, the brothels, the gambling clubs are all flourishing. Now it's time for Jim Sheridan to break into the big time, time for him to set up his own man as mayor in town. The man he picks is Tad Paulsen, the platform is effective government, and the hoods will see that he makes it into power.
__The deal is set up, the police are squared. But, sitting one day in the barbershop, a spray of machine-gun fire smashes through the door and catches Jim in the shoulder. Someone is out to hit him.
__Who is the mysterious enemy who is trying to mow Jim down, take over his territory and break up the Syndicate? Soon the town is blown apart as gang attacks gang; no one is safe on the streets.
The Hoods : 4 Dealer
New English Library 0450-02879-8, 125pp, 45p. Cover: photo
They sent Jim Sheridan to jail to teach him a lesson. And he learnt — about the two big H's, Heroin and Homosexuality.
__So when Jim tasted freedom again, he decided to corner the heroin market. And that meant messing with the heavy mobs in New York. But Jim knew all there was to know about the treachery of gang rivalry, and turned the whole shooting match to his favour.
__That's how Jim came to be the proud owner of a six million dollar empire — in heroin.
(* Many thanks to Tony for answering a number of questions relating to his novels. You can find out more about his work at his official website and blog.)

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