Self-Made, P J Murray’s painfully honest memoir, chronicles his life from a barely literate juvenile gangster in northwest London to becoming a successful businessman and self-made millionaire.

Peppered with cultural references to provide a context of the times, Murray takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the London of the seventies through to the 2000s. Viewing London life through the eyes of one who has lived through an awful lot was one of the key strengths of this memoir, as I could clearly see how the cultural and political changes impacted not only on the author but also thousands of other Black Britons, myself included.

As a youngster, growing up in near poverty the seventies, Murray was of the generation that came after Windrush, the first of those of West Indian parentage who were born in Britain and thus inhabited the space of dual identity with it’s sense of unbelonging. In a bid to carve a sense of place for himself and to escape poverty he turned to violence and crime and was successful in his criminal enterprise until he was caught and sent to prison. Prison life was a saving grace as it was there that he decided to turn his life around. On leaving prison he secured work in sales and began to work his way up the career ladder.

Despite Murray’s many professional successes, there were as many pitfalls, mainly due to poor decisions made on his part. There were times when reading, I was so frustrated because while he was doing well in his businesses and for the most part his personal life, it was almost like he couldn’t help but sabotage himself. For example, being involved in not quite illegal but definitely unethical business deals, getting involved with shady characters, or cheating on partners which later led to the breakdown of his marriage.

The main highlight of the memoir is the founding and launch of Pride magazine, and Murray’s later involvement with other Black media enterprises. I remember when Pride was launched I was so excited, as rightly or wrongly, I’d grown bored with The Voice newspaper, which at the time was probably the only Black British publication, alongside Black Beauty & Hair magazine that was available to me. Pride represented something fresh, relevant and yes to be proud of. So it was really exciting and interesting to discover its origins, and get a behind-the-scenes look at a magazine that pioneered and paved the way for future Black British publications like it.

Curiously despite its obvious positioning as an inspirational memoir, I didn’t come away feeling particular inspired. Yes, there were some key inspirational moments, some I’ve highlighted above, but a lot of the times, the memoir read like a catalogue of excess: expensive cars, holidays and homes, which after a very short while wore very thin – though others might feel differently. Right at the very end, Murray adds his teaching on sowing and giving back, which he cites as being instrumental to his success, but it almost comes as an afterthought to the emphasis on making and spending money, which is a shame as I think his overall message would have hit home more powerfully, had it been weaved right the way through the memoir.

No doubt P J Murray has earned his place as one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs. And as a Black British man who has come from humble and quite difficult beginnings, this is something to be praised. His vision, hard work and sheer talent has spearheaded and shaped many careers, especially within the Black media industry both directly and indirectly. His memoir certainly makes for interesting reading and there are some clear life lessons to be had from his story. One wonders what the next chapter of his life will hold.


Self-Made by P J Murray is available on Amazon and from all major book retailers. Find out more here.

Read our TBB 10 interview with PJ Murray here.