Brighton Racecourse, the base for Pinkie's protection racket, is situated two miles outside the city on Race Hill. Gang culture first emerged in the racing world during the 1920s, with various London mobs struggling for contol of the racetracks. The years of violence that followed culminated in the arrest of the notorious Hoxton Mob in 1936.
Greene's inspiration for the novel was a case being tried at Lewes Assizes in July 1936. James Spinks, or 'Spinky', was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in an armed attack on a bookmaker and his clerk by a 'race gang'.