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The Hustlers: An Explosive True Story of Gambling, Greed and the Perfect Con

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It was December 1963 and the exclusive Clermont Club wsa full of the rich and titled, come to gamble the evening away. Upstairs American high-roller Ray Ryan sat down to play a game of chemmy with the club's owner John Aspinall. Ryam considered Aspinall a friend - until he realised that the sleek Italian at the table was a card sharp hired to steal from him ... So begins 'T It was December 1963 and the exclusive Clermont Club wsa full of the rich and titled, come to gamble the evening away. Upstairs American high-roller Ray Ryan sat down to play a game of chemmy with the club's owner John Aspinall. Ryam considered Aspinall a friend - until he realised that the sleek Italian at the table was a card sharp hired to steal from him ... So begins 'The Hustlers', an explosive true story told for the first time by two beguiling Irishmen who arrived in 1950's London and were key witnesses to an extraordinary period in gambling history. John Burke teamed up with Aspinall to run the best chemmy games in town in those exciting days when most forms of gambling were illegal. He tells how, when they were finally arrested, they were able to win their case with the help of a bent policeman. As a result gambling was legalised in 1960, changing society for ever. Aspinall went on to set up the famous Clermont Club, where Burke was a fellow director. Bobby McKee moved in a world of deadly glamour, where no one was quite as they seemed. He describes cracking safes with legendary thief Eddie Chapman, smuggling in Morocco, and working with terrifying crime boss Billy Hill. He was friend to princes, movie stars and the criminally-inclined from all levels of society. And both men reveal how, when Billy Hill learned of Aspinall's desperation for cash, he saw a chance to involve the Clermont in his best scheme yet, a scam called the 'Big Edge'. Racy and entertaining, with a fantastic cast of characters from Lord Lucan and the Maharaja of Baroda to Mr Money and Louis the Rat, 'The Hustles' is a gripping account of the twentieth century's most outrageous con.


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It was December 1963 and the exclusive Clermont Club wsa full of the rich and titled, come to gamble the evening away. Upstairs American high-roller Ray Ryan sat down to play a game of chemmy with the club's owner John Aspinall. Ryam considered Aspinall a friend - until he realised that the sleek Italian at the table was a card sharp hired to steal from him ... So begins 'T It was December 1963 and the exclusive Clermont Club wsa full of the rich and titled, come to gamble the evening away. Upstairs American high-roller Ray Ryan sat down to play a game of chemmy with the club's owner John Aspinall. Ryam considered Aspinall a friend - until he realised that the sleek Italian at the table was a card sharp hired to steal from him ... So begins 'The Hustlers', an explosive true story told for the first time by two beguiling Irishmen who arrived in 1950's London and were key witnesses to an extraordinary period in gambling history. John Burke teamed up with Aspinall to run the best chemmy games in town in those exciting days when most forms of gambling were illegal. He tells how, when they were finally arrested, they were able to win their case with the help of a bent policeman. As a result gambling was legalised in 1960, changing society for ever. Aspinall went on to set up the famous Clermont Club, where Burke was a fellow director. Bobby McKee moved in a world of deadly glamour, where no one was quite as they seemed. He describes cracking safes with legendary thief Eddie Chapman, smuggling in Morocco, and working with terrifying crime boss Billy Hill. He was friend to princes, movie stars and the criminally-inclined from all levels of society. And both men reveal how, when Billy Hill learned of Aspinall's desperation for cash, he saw a chance to involve the Clermont in his best scheme yet, a scam called the 'Big Edge'. Racy and entertaining, with a fantastic cast of characters from Lord Lucan and the Maharaja of Baroda to Mr Money and Louis the Rat, 'The Hustles' is a gripping account of the twentieth century's most outrageous con.

35 review for The Hustlers: An Explosive True Story of Gambling, Greed and the Perfect Con

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    Wow, this certainly is an explosive tale of gambling in London between the late 1940s and the 1960s with a cast of characters from all levels of society. And the amount of money won and lost, mostly the latter, is incredible. And the way the story is put across, it is difficult to believe that there were any honest club owners and gambling den bosses in London throughout that period. John Aspinal, 'Aspers' to the cognoscenti, and John Burke are the two operators that Douglas Thompson's book centr Wow, this certainly is an explosive tale of gambling in London between the late 1940s and the 1960s with a cast of characters from all levels of society. And the amount of money won and lost, mostly the latter, is incredible. And the way the story is put across, it is difficult to believe that there were any honest club owners and gambling den bosses in London throughout that period. John Aspinal, 'Aspers' to the cognoscenti, and John Burke are the two operators that Douglas Thompson's book centres on and a somewhat shady pair they were at times. However, some of the cast of supporting characters is open to question, such as Billy Hill, who was known as 'The King of the London Underworld' and who even had a hold over the Krays. He lived his life in a flat in Moscow Road, Bayswater, and when anyone was invited to visit him there, they were usually filled with trepidation. Ironically one of the few public houses I visited in London, on my first day in the city as a 17-year-old and taken there by the hardened lads from the hostel where I was staying, was the Moscow Arms, in that very road, and at the time I thought it a less than salubrious area - and I didn't know of Billy Hill's existence in those days either! Chemin de Fer was the game that Aspers and Burke introduced into the polite society that they inhabited and the games were initially played at various private locations, for gambling was illegal and the police would be more aware if the games took place at the same spot each time. There were police raids but more often than not a claim that they were having a private party spared them from prosecution. But despite the money they were making, legally and otherwise, Aspers' life style was such that he was regularly broke and had to borrow money. Indeed he borrowed so much from many different people that it became an embarrassment and he was constantly avoiding his creditors. This system continued for some time until eventually the duo were arrested but they challenged the law and they won - they did have important contacts in high places. Gambling was suddenly legalised so Aspers, by this time the owner of a country house and an associated zoo, continued his gambling ways to fund his extravagant lifestyle. Billy Hill, who always had an interest in, and a cut from, such operations then came up with a new way of making plenty more money. It was a scam called the Big Edge and it was a foolproof way of fixing the cards - authorities regularly checked out the decks of cards used but could never spot anything untoward. He introduced his system into a variety of clubs so that his cut was even better than before and he wanted to get it into Aspers' new club The Clermont. By that time Aspers was not keen on sharing his profits with Hill, and he eventually broke away from Burke, even running him down when in conversation with others, but he had to let Hill have his way. After a time he withdrew the Big Edge from the Clermont and Hill, because he was making so much elsewhere and he rather liked Aspers, let it go without any repercussions. The gambling continued and enormous sums of money continued to be lost, and a little won by the punters just to keep them happy, by a cast of characters that would not have disgraced Debrett's! The story is first-class reading, is a riotous study of 1950's and 1960's London as it vividly recreates the exploits of the entrepreneurs, gamblers and gangsters whose lives collided in the private homes, clubs and pubs of Mayfair and the West End.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Keiron Pim

  3. 4 out of 5

    James Leadbetter

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

  6. 4 out of 5

    Claire Horner

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eilei Matzudah

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Elul

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  10. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gernon

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emma D

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Wulfsohn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  18. 5 out of 5

    Simon

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  20. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka Szaruga

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Durac

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laxasaurusrex

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  24. 4 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stefano

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Tait

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dermie

  29. 5 out of 5

    James Blackfire

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nellyna

  31. 5 out of 5

    Bri

  32. 5 out of 5

    Simon Cook

  33. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  34. 5 out of 5

    Baby

  35. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

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