Jimmy Boyle: The criminal celebrity

In her book, Celebrity Culture and Crime, Ruth Penfold-Mounce (2009 82) states that;

Two central trends comprise celebrated criminality, of which the first is dominant: criminal-celebrities, who are individuals who have been convicted, or suspected, of crime and thus become celebrities;
and rogue celebrities, who are celebrities ‘gone wild’, becoming associated with or found guilt of crime or deviance.

This blog will discuss the the first form of celebrated criminality in relation to Scotsman Jimmy Boyle. In 1967, Boyle was convicted and sentenced for the murder of another gangland figure, William “Babs” Rooney.

Originally, Boyle’s notoriety was produced due to his purely criminal and violent nature. However, Boyle has altered his image to that of criminal hero status as he in now “straight”, and is a recognised sculptor and novelist. It is his ex-criminal status that has aided in his development of a sculptor and novelist. Penfold-Mounce (2009 86) continues;

Jimmy Boyle has increased his celebrated status by becoming a successful novelist and sculptor, whose work is valued at more than £10, 000 a piece. His dramatic shift from violent criminal to a husband, father and artist has provided a mediated success story of the rehabilitation of a criminal hero.

His rehabilitation and personal growth have enhanced Boyle’s possibilities of a respectable career.

It is Boyle’s past that has given him the content to produce his novels and artwork. Boyles works include(The Hardman by Tom McGrath and Jimmy Boyle): Gulliver (concrete sculpture), The Hardman (play), Pain of Confinement: Prison Diaries (novel), Hero of the Underworld (novel), and A Stolen Smile (novel). Without this “chequered past” Boyle would not be successful at his art and writing. Do you agree?

Boyle is the optimal example of celebrity criminal turned hero, while raising his status to that of an author and artist. The dramatic shift of his life, from cold-blooded- killer to Mr. Nice-Guy are the contributing factors to his fame. Additionally, it is his criminal nature that has aided in the creation of his famous works.


Penfold-Mounce, Ruth. Celebrity culture and crime: The joy of transgression. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.
“The Hardman by Tom McGrath and Jimmy Boyle.” Scottish Theatres Consortium, Scotland, 2011. Web. (http://www.thehardman.co.uk/history/jimmy-boyle/)

Published by Julie-Ann Pearl Ellis

Sharing and caring since 1974.

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