It was an honour to be invited back to perform at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Saturday. I was paired with Gavin Knight, author of Hood Rat, an eloquent speaker and all-around good-vibe guy.
Here’s what a reviewer wrote about the session with Gavin:
Shortly after it was time to see journalist Gavin Knight and ex-convict Shaun Attwood talk about their experiences of the criminal underworld in a brilliantly intimate little room upstairs in the White Hart pub. Knight discussed his research into some of Britain’s most notorious gangs, which is collected in his book Hood Rat. Attwood told of his experiences in one of America’s toughest prisons, which was kind of like an aural, more graphic equivalent of Louis Theroux’s latest documentary for the BBC. This was an event made up of exhilarating anecdotes, and some of the stuff that Attwood came out with was thrilling and sickening in equal measure, such as the horrific beatings he was witness to first hand. The pairing of Knight and Attwood was the perfect example of what a literary festival should do: give members of the public a direct and fascinating insight into areas of life they would never normally be privy to. Fantastic.
Video clips will be available later this week.
Other than performing, I enjoyed the events, especially Alexei Sayle, whose hilarious anecdotes about being raised by Jewish, atheist, communist radical parents in Liverpool generated lots of laughter. He infused his readings with theatrical voice inflection and funny faces, all the time coming off as natural, spontaneous and sincere.
Perhaps the biggest name there was Steven Berkoff, the famous super villain in so many movies. General Orlov in James Bond's Octopussy. Lt. Col Podovsky in Rambo 2. Approaching Berkoff in the lobby just before his performance, seeing that distinct face, especially his eyes, the eyes belonging to so many evil characters, filled me with terror. Why did he have to hunt Rambo down so ruthlessly during my formative years? Hollywood has conditioned me to be frightened of him. And I am not alone. Others have experienced this. Including the lady who booked Berkoff. I believe it is called the Berkoff effect. So many people showed up to see Berkoff unveil a bust of Edgar Allen Poe that traffic came to a standstill on the high street. A magical moment.
On Sunday night, I had a chat with Howard Marks, the pot dealer whose book, Mr. Nice, I enjoyed in prison. He served time in America. His life was made into a movie last year.