“Revenge is a kind of wild justice… in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior” Francis Bacon, 1625 

“There are people who deserve to get hurt” Sam the Stick, 1945 

A Crime Drama 
based on the Novel, Pomeranski, by Gerald Jacobs 

Adapted for the screen by Greig Coetzee  

Pomeranski is a story of love, crime, brotherhood and vengeance played out within a Jewish underworld against the vibrant, changing backdrop of post-war Brixton.


The Astorians are a motley group of Brixton businessmen who have risen above the poverty of their childhood. Theirs is a vigorous, eclectic, sometimes riotous world coloured by fine clothes, celebratory gatherings, jazz, smoky nightclubs, rigged boxing matches, dodgy deals, Hasidic diamond smugglers… and Jamaica. 

The story charts the emergence of a variety of individuals from a deprived and, in some cases, delinquent youth in the 1930s, and their rise and fall through the decades following the Second World War as they build ‘respectable’ business fronts that hide their more lucrative underworld ventures. We witness their passions and power struggles; their marriages and affairs; their loyalties and betrayals… and the thirst for vengeance that some of them have to quench. 

It is a world where greed, crime and machismo rub up against brotherhood and respectability, where family and community must somehow survive old battle scars and stolen infidelities… where humanity must wrestle with its own heart of darkness and find a way still to laugh, love, dance and sing. 


 Benny ‘The Fixer’ Pomeranski is dead at 81. His son, Simon, finds his father’s secret journal and so Benny’s voice becomes the narrator that stitches together scenes from the previous 50 years… throughout which Benny himself remains a prominent figure. It’s a story where the places (Brixton, in South London, and Kingston, Jamaica) are as much ‘characters’ as the people are.

Benny and his life-long friend, Sam ‘The Stick’ Golub, come to Brixton from London’s East End as young men and see it as a place of romance, vivid thrills, opportunity and danger in stark contrast to the bleakness of their youth and the mundane respectability of their family lives. Benny is an autodidact who combines his loyalty to the rough, male, wolfpack world of the Astorians with a love of literature, music and other refinements. 

This is probably why he falls for the beautiful, talented songstress, Estelle Davis. She’s no gangster’s moll — she has escaped from her troubled childhood and a miserable marriage by using her wits, her courage and her voice. And, while she falls for Benny as much as he does for her, she is never a kept woman and can also walk alone through this underworld when she needs to. She is arguably the personification of the Brixton that Benny loves: attractive, layered and extraordinary. Unlike Estelle, Benny holds on to the respectable veneer of family and marriage. 

His wife, Bertha, turns a blind eye to Benny’s Brixton world in exchange for her life of comfort and virtue and plays her part in Benny’s flourishing fashion store, Pomeranski Gowns. Like most of the Astorians, Benny lives a double life while Estelle risks all in following her singing dream from London to Kingston and back. Behind the limelight, make-up and sequins, she discovers that, in a man’s world, a woman sometimes needs a gun. 

In contrast to these secret lovers, Sam The Stick cannot erase the wounds of his youth. His moniker derives from the sturdy cane he needs to walk since a childhood accident left him with a permanent, painful limp. This emasculates Sam in the eyes of some within the tough Brixton milieu, and his bitter resentment causes him at times to burst out in an anger he can’t control, leaving him always ready to use his stick as a weapon. His wife, Joyce, leaves him for a lover, adding salt to his wounds and a predisposition to vengeance for the cruel hand life has dealt him. 

The target of that vengeance presents itself in the person of ‘Little Jack’ Lewis, the one obvious psychopath in this story. The Astorians regard any violence they dish out as justified because they confine it to people who ‘had it coming’. Little Jack, on the other hand, will take down anyone who gets in his way, either by his own hand or via a minion. Little Jack is the vicious kingpin of a small empire that includes a furnishing business and a smart jazz club. But, beyond his hunger for money, and despite his love of music, he most enjoys exerting power and cruelty— even forcing himself on Sam’s estranged wife. The relationship between the Astorians and Little Jack’s rough gang of thugs is, at best, an uneasy truce and, eventually, a fight to the death. 

The one exception to this strict enmity is ‘Kid’ Joey Campbell, a young black, professional boxer to whom Little Jack gave years of shelter. As the Kid’s boxing career reaches ever greater heights, he gravitates towards Benny Pomeranski’s Astorians and is welcomed into their ranks by the likes of Spanish Joe, Fancy Goods Harry, and Maxie the Ganoff. And when Joey defies Little Jack’s order to throw a championship eliminator fight, it is Benny who saves him from Little Jack’s deadly retribution by spiriting the nervous pugilist away to Jamaica with a new name and a new life. 

While Sam’s life improves with the return of his wife, Joyce, the bad blood between him and Little Jack continues to fester, especially when Sam hears of Little Jack cornering Joyce. He is intent on killing Jack, not only for personal vengeance but also as catharsis for the humiliation and pain he has endured since his childhood injury. For once, his anger is ice-cold and Sam the Stick Golub’s slaying of Little Jack Lewis is carefully planned and perfectly executed – possibly the only flawless success of his chequered life. 

But this is not the end. The central theme of vengeance intensifies, hounding our characters into old age. Kid Joey and Sam both remain suspects for Little Jack’s death in the eyes of Jack’s son, Ronnie Lewis. When Sam Golub ends up old and vulnerable in a nursing home, and Joey finally leaves Jamaica to return to British shores, Ronnie sees his chance. Will he take it? Will he find the culprit and how will the cycle of vengeance come to a close? 

In the end, however, this is not just another London gangster story. Not that much blood is spilled… and it’s about resisting, as much as wreaking vengeance. More than that, it’s an elegy, perhaps even a love song, to a Brixton that is today no more, to a time when one immigrant community was slowly making way for another. A time and a place in which a woman could wear a beautiful evening dress from Pomeranski Gowns and sing her way into the hearts of hard men.

Project status

In script development