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When reality meets fiction

LIFE OF CRIME: Anthony Spencer

MORE THAN two decades ago, when new author Anthony Spencer was sitting in prison; he had a moment of sheer inspiration.

Frustrated, angry and disillusioned with the system, he started to think about how he might write about his extraordinary life of crime, drugs in the belly of the British underworld of organised criminal gangs. 

He quickly set about penning City Jungles, a stirring account based on reality and composed of “my realities and the fictional accounts of those around me at the time”.

The results are sensational. Some may look upon the publication of Spencer's book as unusual based on the timidity of the publishing world when it comes to unknown writers and unfamiliar lifestyles, particularly Afro-Caribbean ones. Yet the world of literature is changing, 12 years A Slave served to prove that society is ready to hear about the harsher realities of African lives; historical or recent. 

Black literature is firmly on the map at present; from Nigerian author Chimamamda Ngozi Adichie to recent Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James.

Heralded as the latest author to successfully fuse the 'hard boiled' genres of both memoir and crime fiction; Spencer is set to dominate the books charts with this raw and riveting contribution. 

Upon speaking to Spencer, one thing is immediately clear: this is a man who has lived, loved, lost and is unashamed to share his tale in the hope that “if our young people cannot learn from their own parents mistakes, they can learn from mine”.

City Jungles has wide appeal, the author adds: “If you grew up on the wrong side of the fence, the side that society overlooks and the system overlooks; you will relate to City Jungles. If you're from the privileged side of the fence, you'll see the light.”

His modesty is perhaps most fascinating about Spencer. The son of “successful, staunch and strict” parents, Spencer is the first to admit his life would have been very different if he had been more concerned with listening to them than following the example of “the guys that ran the streets” of 1980's Tottenham, north London. The atmosphere was tense, Thatcher's political moves had created unrest and general dissatisfaction in Britain and Spencer certainly wasn't immune to the frustrations of stop and search and unemployment. What happened next is a must-read as his life spiralled into one of drugs, relapses, abuse, sex, and bad decisions. 

His writing style is unique as Spencer fearlessly relays his own realities whilst effortlessly fusing them with fictional accounts of the world around him. The book is a political eye-opener as Spencer unravels the injustices of British politics and the impact it has on the lives of the working classes. The wider appeal of City Jungles is its refreshingly honest style, which is set to serve as striking insight into Britain's underworld to those of us who have little or no knowledge of its harsh realities. 

Spencer is keen for his readers to set aside his personal experiences and read it as “a work of fiction” so that they might join this gritty roller coaster of emotion to its fullest. 

His aim? To simply inspire, educate and enlighten. 

Whether you grew up in a favela, a township, ghetto or mansion; this book will re-wire the way you view the British political system and all of its many consequences. 

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