Carlton Leach is fast becoming a regular guest on my Soul2Ink blog. It’s odd to think our worlds collided but due to our modern technological lives (Twitter) they did. Truth be known, I’d followed ‘the story’ for many years and when he wrote his version of events, I was keen to read them.
Despite our different backgrounds and career choices, there’s much common ground between us and I hope that’s reflected in the questions I’ve asked. It truly is my greatest privilege to be able to share this fantastic feature and insight with you and I thank Carlton both for his time and candidness.
Carlton, given your past reputation of being known as one of football’s ‘hard bustards’ in the terraces and in forming ICF, how does it make you feel that your first chapter of Carlton: The Final Say “Dad” creates so much humbleness and humanity among some of the toughest of men?
I’m not one of those guys who claims to be a founding member of something, but you are right Donna, I did run with the ICF in its infancy.
It’s lovely to hear you speak about that chapter in such a way to be honest, thank you! I’ve seen and heard a lot of feedback about that chapter in particular and it’s very touching because of course, that was probably the closest chapter to my heart and it was very difficult for me to put together.
In answer to your question; we’re all just humans, no matter what exterior any of us may have, be it genuine or a false persona, on the inside we all have feelings, we all have parents and childhood memories, and the beauty of a book is that when somebody is sat alone reading, they can’t lie to themselves! There’s nobody to impress or let down in your mind, so it’s hard not to feel something when you read that chapter.
Looking back to your football terrace days, to earning your reputation as a foot soldier and realising the thrill of conflict, have you ever considered your first ever addiction was to adrenaline and the danger that it placed you in, aside from the violence and all that followed?
In my much younger days I hardly drank [alcohol] or took drugs, so you’re spot on that my first addiction was violence and the adrenaline that accompanied it! It wasn’t until a while later during the rave years that I took drugs and later started to drink more. I might have had 1 or 2 bevvies on the odd occasion, but I didn’t need it to get me going; my love and passion was West Ham and my buzz was from the fighting!
Your writing within Muscle and The Final Say is startlingly different. Muscle is packed with testosterone but your latest book is from the heart and packed with emotion. How did you find the process of writing each book differed for you?
I’m at a very different stage in life now, it’s inevitable that everyone will mellow to a certain degree with age, whether that’s by conscious decision or because our bodies can’t take the shit we’re putting it through anymore! I suppose in my case it’s a little of both really. I was living in Spain for a few years (as you know because you’ve read the book!) and it gave me plenty of time for reflection. I kept busy out there, of course, but the power of the sun and the whole ‘being away from it all’ can do you wonders, and it led me to reflect upon my life a great deal, this was how The Final Say was born really, where as two decades ago when I wrote Muscle and life was crazy…100 miles per hour…I never really stopped to think never mind reflect! I suppose this is what came across to you and I’m glad it did to be honest.
One of your strengths, in my opinion, is your ability to strive within a sea of people wishing that you would drown. How do you keep yourself mentally prepared in order to diminish this negativity?
Thanks for the compliment Donna! Although I’ll be honest, there have been several times when I thought I was drowning and might not make it through, but I’m here today so I’ll be grateful for that! These days I notice people are looking for 1 specific miracle answer on how to get through adversity, but in my experience the solution can be found through a variety of things and often these things are already around us and don’t cost a thing. Most of us have family or friends that need or rely on us, or at the very least would miss us if we weren’t here tomorrow. Training is another excellent thing, be it boxing, weightlifting, football or tennis…sport is so good for our body and mind.
How about writing Donna? I imagine people who can write might find doing just that therapeutic and helpful in hard times!
At the time, when we’re going through some shit in our lives, we don’t necessarily realise that we could be having mental health issues, that’s why building good habits is important. I used to be into bodybuilding and boxing in a big way when I was much younger and I couldn’t train like that now if I wanted to, but I still try to have a routine that keeps me in as best shape as possible.
Like you Carlton, I find threats a challenge. Despite our very different backgrounds I know these challenges are met face on either alone or with those who stand beside us. With this in mind what does loyalty mean to you?
Loyalty is priceless, and like most high-value things in this life, it’s rare as fuck! As you know from the book, I have very few people left around me now that I had with me back in the day, and even fewer loyal people who came into my life in the past say 15-18 years.
For those who think loyalty, honour and respect are dead, I won’t entirely disagree with you, but try to think of loyalty like a good investment; it may not be worth much when you put it in, but most of the time it can pay out 100s of times over through the years. If we all tried that, the world would be a better place I’m sure.
Your rise to fame beyond football and the rave scene arrived through what has become a British Cult film. I am of course only talking about the first ROTFS film. Despite the negativity that came with the franchise for many, including yourself, has there been a positive side to this experience for you?
You seem to quite enjoy a Q&A session live on stage and as one of your guests I noted how comfortable you seemed with a microphone in your hand. Banter flowed seamlessly with the crowd and you were candid and humble with your responses to questions. Firstly, what made you turn to the stage? And secondly, how does it make you feel that people want to pay to hear you speak?
It was me who actually started the shows to promote the first film, that’s how the idea came about. I wanted get out and about, all over the UK and meet people who’d watched the film and enjoyed it. Once I realised that I’d likely never see a penny of the royalties from the film, I could have knocked the shows on the head, but enquiries kept coming in from venues and do to this day, and whilst I keep telling myself I can’t keep going on the road I do feel a sense of obligation, because if people want to meet and speak to me that much that they’re willing to buy a ticket and travel to the venue, then I should make the effort for as long as I can. Where you and I met in Cardiff, 1,000 people had bought tickets from the venue! To me that’s incredible and truly humbling, I am so grateful for the support I still receive so many years after Muscle and the film. I’m glad you enjoyed the show, that’s what people come out for after all!
Let’s face it, however many children and grandchildren we might have. However hard life has been. Gangster background, or not. A book is a ‘book baby’. They make us proud, all be that in a different way. How then did you, the little lad who dressed as Batman and jumped from his dad’s car across Gotham City feel, when yours started hitting the bestsellers lists all these years later?
[Laughs] Landmark moments with the books never cease to amaze me, from being asked to actually write Muscle in the first place, then to be told that it should be made into a film was incredible. When the film came out, the publishers updated Muscle and released it as a book by the same name as the film, then they had 50,000 hard back copies printed as a limited edition – it was only a few months later that they told me they’d sold out and I was once again left pretty bloody shocked at the thought of so many people wanting to read about my life.
‘CARLTON – The Final Say’ doesn’t have the luxury of a big publisher behind it like my other books, myself and my team handled the process ourselves and continue to promote it. Within 24 hours of release, it went to the number 1 spot in its category on Amazon, a moment I was exceptionally proud of! It speaks for itself when sales are still strong over a year on and I’m grateful to all who support me, people like yourself Donna, and people who take the time to leave a review or share the link with someone they know will like the book. The in-depth feedback we see about how The Final Say came across, resonated or was highly relatable to someone tells me that we must have done something right and I think what we’ve done with that book so far is brilliant!
I’ll give you a little exclusive here…but a few times I’ve had to go back and re-watch my interview with Nigel Farrage on GB News, because being invited onto a news channel during prime time to speak about life and my book is a great achievement.
Carlton, both of us have looked death in the face too many times for comfort. What keeps you focused on tomorrow when it’s not promised?
At times I wasn’t focused on tomorrow to be honest, I was in the moment and didn’t give a fuck! There have also been times when dropping out early wasn’t an option out of sheer stubbornness and not giving haters the satisfaction! But it’s been my family that kept me going for the most part.
Finally, I cannot pass on asking about your time with Nigel Benn and can’t even begin to imagine the impact it had on your psyche walking him out to the ring and spending time with him. What for you was the most impactful memory between you both?
Those were crazy times, proper enjoyable! So many people have told me over the years that they’d give their right arm to go back and do what I done there. The best memories and feelings I have from those days were my shared experiences with Tony [Tucker], they can never be denied or taken away from me.
Thank you for the chat Donna, keeping doing what you do!
To purchase Carltons latest book, THE FINAL SAY please follow the link below. You can also visit Carlton's website www.carltonleach.com