The Great Train Robber: My Autobiography: The Inside Story of Britain’s Most Notorious Heist by Ronnie Biggs and Chris Pickard
So is it the man or the myth that makes Biggs, who died in 2013, both a latter-day Robin Hood and the odd man out? Whatever the answer to that conundrum, Ronald Arthur Biggs will always be the best remembered member of a gang of sixteen who held up a mail train in August of 1963.
This official autobiography of Biggs’ entire, chequered life – now revised and updated – was written by the man himself in tandem with Chris Pickard, known as the ‘ghost’ of Biggs after helping the robber write his bestselling autobiography Odd Man Out: The Last Straw, plus The Great Train Robber, The Great Train Robbery – The Crime of the Century, and the novel Keep On Running.
The exact day of the robbery was August 8. In the early hours of the morning, a group of men waited at a railway bridge in Buckinghamshire. They were about to rob a mail train, on its way to London from Glasgow, and they had no idea that on board they would find approximately £2.5 million (over £50 million in today’s money) in cash... the largest amount ever stolen at that time.
Among their number was Biggs and he would be a legend of British crime long after most of the other names were forgotten, and the money spent... or lost.
From the robbery, his conviction and subsequent escape from HMP Wandsworth, Biggs tells how he became one of the world’s most hunted men but still managed to outrun and outthink the posse of law enforcement officers and the media that chased him all the way.
From his time in Australia, plastic surgery in Paris, and his years on the run in Brazil – complete with two kidnappings and an attempted suicide – to his discovery and arrest in Rio de Janeiro, this comprehensive autobiography covers the two attempts to kidnap him, and the rise to stardom of his son Michael, born to Biggs’ girlfriend, Raimunda.
Biggs also reveals exactly what happened to him from the early 1990s onwards, including his strokes, his attempted suicide, the death of his partner and friends, the extradition attempts, the Rio carnival tribute, his decision to come back to the UK, and his much-publicised return in 2001 after 13,087 days on the run.
With its brand new 10,000-word timeline, the book covers not only the life, death and legacy of Biggs but also the most detailed facts ever published about the events surrounding the Great Train Robbery itself.
Marking the sixtieth anniversary of Britain’s most notorious crime, this is the daring, exciting and often misunderstood life of a man who saw and did it all, told in his own words.
(John Blake, paperback, £9.99)