Saturday, 14 February 2015

In the grey post-war world, Soho was the most exciting and dangerous place in Britain. Crime, sex, foreign food, and jazz, all lived side by side in this melting pot of approximately one square mile in the centre of London that is Soho.

There were no flowers near to where Jack Cohen was born; as a Jew from the east end of London, his earliest memory of a vibrant colour was the scarlet red blood that gushed from the gaping wound left by a cut-throat razor, during a street fight between two rival illegal bookmakers.

With such childhood memories it was no wonder that Cohen wandered into a life of crime. A life that took him from his humble east-end beginnings, to the top of his chosen profession, as the boss of the London Underworld.

Wage snatches and gold bullion heists featured heavily in Cohen's line of work, as did protection rackets, gambling, and taking over west-end nightclubs. None of this however, could be achieved without a high level of violence, some of which ended in death, gang warfare, bent coppers, and double dealings from all sides.

There were however, two sides to Jack Cohen; the side that everyone saw was Jack Cohen the vicious gangster, but the other side of the coin was Jack Cohen, the family man, who would have laid his life on the line for his wife and daughter.

Jack Cohen made many enemies along the way, from the early racecourse gangs during the 1930s, to the 1940s wartime racketeers, and through to the first organised sex trade gangs who were threatening the well-being of his clubs and spielers in the west end.

As the 1950s was coming to an end, the old guard were also in decline and new faces were starting to make their presence felt around Soho. Cohen was starting to feel the heat, but being the man he was, he was not about to take this new threat lightly.