Underworld king Ferris to hold court at festival

ONE of Scotland's most feared gangland figures is being given star billing in a major literary celebration in Edinburgh.

Paul Ferris, who has become a best-selling novelist since his release from jail four years ago, has been confirmed for an appearance in next month's Festival of Scottish Writing.

The Glasgow gunrunner is lined up for a talk and book-signing session just 12 months after claims that he was moving in on the Capital's taxi scene.

The annual event is the second biggest - after the International Book Festival in Charlotte Square - to be staged in the Capital under the Unesco Edinburgh World City of Literature banner.

Ferris will be appearing with the crime writer Reg McKay, one of the country's leading experts on gangland crime, at an event in McDonald Road library, to be hosted by former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan.

The notorious underworld figure has twice teamed up with McKay to write books about his life, with debut The Ferris Conspiracy tipped to be turned into a major feature film starring Robert Carlyle in the title role.

The latest book, Vendetta, which was released by Edinburgh-based Black and White Publishing, is billed as "a story of international gangsters, hit contracts, murders, bank scams, Essex-boy torturers, corrupt politics, crack-head hit-men, knife duels, securi-wars, drugs, guns, Yardies, terrorists and more".

Publicist Gillian Mackay said: "Paul and Reg did a similar event at Borders in Glasgow last year and it was very successful, and the book was done exceptionally well since it was released."

Labour councillor Shami Khan, a member of Lothian and Borders Police Board, said: "He's perfectly entitled to promote his book and I think there will be enough public interest in him to justify his inclusion in the programme."

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said: "I would hope that the council is satisfied that he is no longer involved in any criminal activities and really has gone clean."

The city council, which ploughs 5000 into the annual event, said: "Ferris exposes the brutal underworld of Britain's streets and tells more of his story 'going straight' and life after release from prison in 2002."

The Festival of Scottish Writing, which this year runs from May 12-29, is the major literary event organised by the city council and features author readings, workshops, debates, performance poetry, storytelling and children's activities held in libraries and other venues across Edinburgh.

Crime is a main theme of this year's festival, which also features Edinburgh author Lin Anderson, creator of the forensic scientist character Rhona MacLeod.

And the festival will see an appearance from Allan Guthrie, the former Edinburgh bookshop assistant dubbed "the new Ian Rankin", who gave up his job after being offered a five-figure advance for a crime trilogy.

Edinburgh's culture and leisure leader Ricky Henderson said: "The festival celebrates many of our country's contemporary writers and will hopefully provide inspiration for the next generation of Scottish talent."

Gangland enforcer with a taste for violence

PAUL FERRIS came to public prominence in the early 1990s, but by then he was already well-known to police.

At 16, Ferris was a leg-man for the infamous Arthur Thompson firm, establishing himself as a fearless thief.

His taste for violence was evident early on, but despite being linked to stabbings, slashings, blindings and knee-cappings, Ferris would always emerge relatively unscathed.

As Glasgow's heroin market flourished in the early 1980s, the ambitious Ferris would also secretly organise his own criminal operations under the cover of apparently legitimate business interests.

In the 1980s, he broke free of the Thompson family and became linked with Tam "The Licensee" McGraw. Their relationship broke down when Ferris accused his ally of setting him up in a drugs bust.

Rivalry with the Thompson family peaked when Ferris was charged with killing Arthur Thompson Jnr in 1991. Ferris was cleared, but was jailed in 1998 after being found guilty of a string of charges involving the supply of weapons.