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Meeting the Gov'nor

 LONDON - 3 November 2003 - 320 words

True crime and Christianity are not themes that you come across often in the same book. But they emerge in Meeting the Guv'nor, the pacy, violent and sometimes moving account of the life of Alan Mortlock, the country's top promoter of unlicensed boxing.

Like many young men growing up in London's East End in the 1960s, Mortlock wanted a reputation on the streets. So he took up martial arts and soon realised he was very good at it. But he couldn't control his aggression and love of a "ruck", and he ended up in prison after stabbing a man in a street brawl outside a night club.

That experience failed to change him and, upon his release, he reverted to his old ways. He got involved in drug dealing and also began drinking heavily. His promising career as a kick boxing promoter took a noise dive and his wife threatened to leave him and take the children with her.

What did change him was an encounter one night in 1991 with an ex-drug smuggler friend. Following what he says was a supernatural experience, he became a Christian. But he saw no reason to give up his love of martial arts and boxing.

Mortlock is an honest and open character who doesn't hide the fact that living out his Christianity in the shadowy subculture of unlicensed boxing is not easy. He says that he knows some of those attending his shows are involved in organised crime, but adds that he doesn't judge them. He sees them not as gangsters but as friends.

This is a book that's difficult to put down. It's powerful, dramatic and inspiring, and it's one that might well speak to those who think Christianity is for wimps, as Mortlock admits he used to.

Meeting the Guv'nor by Alan Mortlock with Greg Watts is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £6.99.