On a whim the other day, I decided to watch Peaky Blinders on Netflix. Fifteen hours later I emerged, bleary-eyed and speaking in a vaguely British accent. It’s official: I’m hooked.
It’s good timing too, since the third season is getting released on Netflix on May 31. The show is already airing on BBC Two in the UK, and I may or may not have been up until 3 a.m. last night reading spoilers on the Internet. I just can’t help it! This show is SO. GOOD.
Peaky Blinders is about the Shelbys, a gangster family in early 1920s Birmingham, England. The main character is Tommy, the second oldest son, and, just like most of the young men in England, a veteran of the First World War. The show follows him as he works to grow his family from a small-time bookie operation to running the London racetracks, owning multiple businesses, and exporting/importing all kinds of illegal stuff. It’s not an easy climb to the top, and Tommy and his family are ruthless with their enemies.
The Peaky Blinders were a real gang in England, named for the razor blades they would sew into their caps. Just guess what they did with those. Season 1 sees Tommy building his business in Birmingham, eluding the grasp of a new cop hell-bent on finding some stolen guns, and falling in love with an innocent (OR IS SHE?) barmaid named Grace. Season 2 is all about concurring London, which includes a dynamic performance by Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons, the leader of the local Jewish gang. Season 3 promises more violence, the same beautiful cinematography, and higher stakes for all the Shelbys.
At the end of season 2, Tommy decides he’s going to take a wife, and all I can say is that it better be his true love Grace and not the elite, good-for-his-career May. But this is Tommy we’re talking about, and love might not win out against ambition. Luckily, Netflix just released the trailer for season 3 and it looks a-mah-zing:
Funny, dark and thrilling, this is everything that I love about Peaky Blinders. Binge this series immediately if you haven’t already. And once you’re done –- it won’t take long, trust me –- here are three books to keep you entertained before this insanely dynamic show comes back stateside on Netflix:
Bright Young Things, Anna Godbersen (HarperCollins, 2010)
The last book in this young adult series came out in 2010, but I’m still obsessed. Godbersen is known for her lush and complicated historical series, and Bright Young Things is one of the best. It follows three young girls as they navigate the Roaring Twenties in New York City. Letty and Cordelia escape small town life in order to find themselves in the city. For Letty, that means Broadway and bright lights. For Cordelia, it means reconnecting with her bootlegger father. Along with Astrid, a flapper who’s dating Cordelia’s brother, the three girls fall in and out of love and make huge decisions about their future against the backdrop of underground speakeasies, Long Island mansions ala The Great Gatsby, and glittering party after party. This series is fun, moving, and will definitely appeal to any Peaky Blinders history freak.
The Gangster, Cliver Cussler and Justin Scott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016)
In this latest Isaac Bell novel, best-selling author Cussler and his writing partner Scott return to the gritty streets of New York City in the early 1900s. Isaac is a detective, this time tasked with forming the “Black Hand Squad” to rid the city of the latest crime spree. But these gangsters are tougher than most, one step ahead of Isaac as they drop bodies all over town. While Peaky Blinders brings us into the world of the criminals, The Gangster looks at it from the point of view of the law, and the efforts they took to curb the excessive violence and corruption.
The Real Peaky Blinders, Carl Chinn (Brewin Books, 2014)
Chinn explores the history behind the real Peaky Blinders gang in this comprehensive nonfiction account of the violence and gangs in Birmingham in the 1920s. You’ll read about people you’ll recognize from the show –- like Billy Kimber! -– and get the true facts behind their lives. Sometimes reality is just as violent and dramatic as fiction, something Chinn proves over and over in this book. If you’re dying to know more about the bloody “racetrack wars” that Peaky Blinders is based on, then this is the story for you.