"The Soho Don" is the story of a shy south London boy from a respectable family who became a shadowy but powerful figure in the Soho, Mayfair and Brighton underworlds. Smartly dressed and well spoken, Billy Howard dominated the London crime scene for 30 years, a reign punctuated only by short stays in prison. The Krays said he feared no one and that Howard was the one man they truly respected. The protection business drew him into a lucrative world of nightclubs and gambling, on the back of the black-market trade that had flourished during the World War II. Unlike many of the notorious figures that have emerged from this era, he was in many ways a loner, preferring to control his own operations and eschewing the leadership of a gang. In contrast to the Krays, he did not court publicity but on the occasions his name did hit the headlines, it was often with the tag "Laughing Boy". A boxer in the army, a powerful street fighter and utterly fearless with a knife, Howard was ruthless in meting out punishment to villains who stepped out of line and instilled terror in witnesses who were prepared to testify against him.
His power and influence were so great that even now, almost two decades after his death, close friends and casual acquaintances are still wary of speaking out. "The Soho Don" is an account of Howard's violent life and it exposes the links between the vicious gangland bosses, the police, the celebrity hothouses of Mayfair clubs, high-class prostitution and international gambling. It portrays his slide from power and, finally, his pathetic death in 1984.
Michael connor is a writer and journalist and has contributed to numerous publications, including THE GUARDIAN and GQ. He has also undertaken drug trafficking research for both the NEWS OF THE WORLD and THE MIRROR. Having lived abroad for much of his life, he currently resides in Kent with his long-term partner and teenage son.