10 Books to Read if You Love The Peaky Blinders

By June 4, 2016 October 24th, 2017 Television

I’m not a big television watcher but a friend recommended The Peaky Blinders to me a few weeks ago and it’s excellent! Based on the history of real gangs around Birmingham in the 1920s, it’s historical, political and dramatic. Not for the faint hearted, The Peaky Blinders follows the story of a gang of illegal bookmakers and racketeers from Birmingham, the show is set in 1919 and covers gang warfare, a corrupt police force, a corrupt government, and the IRA. It’s a BBC 2 production, but Netflix has picked it up, I highly recommend it.

I’ve enjoyed it so much I got to thinking about books that might be set around the same subject. After asking in our reading group and doing some research I’ve come up with a list of books I’ll be checking out, and so I thought I’d share it with you.


The Alienist – Caleb Carr

The Peaky Blinders might have wreaked havoc on this side of the Atlantic, but over the water they’ve had their own criminal gangs. The Alienist is a crime novel, released in 1994, and just like the peeks you get of Churchill in The Peaky Blinders, here you’ll get appearances from Roosevelt and J.P Morgan in this tale of the underworld of New York set in 1896.

The Alienist US
The Alienist UK

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The Gangs of Birmingham – Philip Gooderson

The name Peaky Blinders is historically accurate but the actual programme no doubt takes a lot of poetic licence. Here, Gooderson’s book traces the real history of Birmingham’s violent, youth-fuelled gangs of the late 19th and early 20th century, from The Sloggers to The Peaky Blinders. The book is marketed as ‘The Real Peaky Blinders‘ to the US market.

The Real Peaky Blinders US
The Gangs of Birmingham UK

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King of the Clubs – Terry Turbo

Bring Tommy Shelby forward a few decades and you might be left with Terry Turbo, drug taking king of the rave scene. Here Terry chronicles how he built up the country’s biggest dance empire, rubbed shoulders with celebrities and gangsters, fought off gun men and lived a hedonistic champagne lifestyle many can only dream of.

King of the Clubs US
King of the Clubs UK

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Troubles – J. G. Farrell

If The Peaky Blinders stories of the IRA has left you wanting to find out more about the Irish Civil War and what would become know as ‘The Troubles’, then Farrell’s dark comedy, which centres on a once-grand Irish hotel that has fallen into disrepair is also a good historical account of the age-old rivalry between Irish Nationalists and English Colonials and how the fight has panned out over the years.

Troubles US
Troubles UK

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Hooligans – Chaz Fenwick

We’re bringing ultra-violence and gang warfare bang up to date with this selection, a violent, graphic, adrenaline rush of a novel following the Westside Gangstas. It’s missing the history but includes all the ultra-violence and gang warfare of The Peaky Blinders.

Hooligans US
Hooligans UK

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Our Story – Reg and Ron Kray

Before the death of Reginald and Ronald Kray, the 60s most feared twins the pair worked with Fred Dinenage to ‘set the story straight’. This honest and brutal account, straight from Britain’s most notorious gangsters is both an interesting look at the 1960s and the gang warfare that pervaded London.

Our Story US
Our Story UK

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The Gangs of New York – Herbert Asbury

Set at around the same time as The Peaky Blinders but in downtown Manhattan, The Gangs of New York is an informal history of the area, the time, and the legendary crime bosses and criminal gangs of the time.

The Gangs of New York US
The Gangs of New York UK

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A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

Burgess’ dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange never goes out of fashion and if you’re a fan of the uber-violence in The Peaky Blinders then this may be for you. There’s no historical aspect, but it’s edge of your seat stuff and quite a ride.

A Clockwork Orange US
A Clockwork Orange UK

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Billy Bathgate – E. L. Doctorow

Billy Bathgate is a fictional work set in New York in the days of the Depression. The eponymous protagonist joins a notorious gang of a good luck charm and apprentice mobster, this is his story and while fictional it should satiate any history fan too.

Billy Bathgate US
Billy Bathgate UK

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Bright Young People – D.J Taylor

In The Peaky Blinders season two, we open in 1921 as the Birmingham Boys head to London and take in the clubs, the progressive music and the exclusive clubs. Bright Young People looks at this avante-garde lifestyle that shock a generation of people out of its post-war reverie.

Bright Young People US
Bright Young People UK

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Well that’s certainly added plenty to my TBR, and I’m hoping some of it proves as exciting, gritty and gripping as The Peaky Blinders has, even if I won’t have the delectable Cillian Murphy to drool over.

I hope this selection has also given you a little inspiration for your next read too.

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