Archive for london

Book Review ‘London Belongs to Me’ by Norman Collins

Posted in Dear Reader I read it! Book reviews with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by echostains

Just finished ‘London belongs to me’ by Norman Collins, and it’s took me quite a while to read it (just saving it for bedtime reading).  I enjoyed it very much.  On the face of it looked like it may have mirrored Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square’, but apart from it being set in a shared house in Wartime London, there ends the comparison.

There are some interesting characters in the story of the house in Dulcimer Street, Kennington and all of them are brought vividly alive by Collins. The Josser family are more or less at the hub of the story.  It starts with Mr Josser’s retirement farewell, and ends with his re instatement.  In the middle, adjustments are made to all the residents lives and their life styles.  The lonely widowed land lady, her suitor and  lodger the enigmatic Mr Squales are amongst the characters that also share this house in London.

The Boons, consisting of mother and son Percy, a mechanic deals with the way the legal system works and how respectability can be lost very quickly.  Other characters include Connie, an old-time showgirl, a rather sad character, but a survivor (well for most of the book).  She is ‘old’, though we don’t find out how ancient she actually is.  Connie always seems to be there, in the wrong or right place when something exciting is happening – most of it, profitable in some way to the old girl.

There’s also a character who’d whole life revolves around making meals – a Mr Puddy.  He must have aneroid trouble, given the way he speaks – but the  writing makes it easy to  understand what he’s saying.  Meanwhile while all the large and small dramas are being played out: black out curtains are dutifully drawn and life goes on regardless.  A highly enjoyable and diverting read,  a jolly good book and very well written. I was very sorry to have finished it.

Note:  This post  has been transferred from my art blog Echostains.  I shall be transferring my book, DVD and film reviews to this space.

London in the Blitz HERE

Book: The worst street by Fiona Rule

Posted in Dear Reader I read it! Book reviews with tags , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by echostains

The Worst st in London by Fiona Rule

Where does the time fly to?  It is a couple of weeks or so since I last posted on here.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy reading though – or watching.  I have now finished ‘The worst street in London’ by Fiona Rule.  The street in question is Dorset Street, Spitalfields London.  I was inspired to read this book after our excursion to Denis Severs House in Spitalfields (read my post on echostains a collection of time-travel experiences and atmospheres)

The olden Dorset St

Though the book has an introduction by Peter Ackroyd it’s really  nothing like Ackroyds ‘London’ or in his style. Neither is it a dry text-book nor really academic, but it is a good read, once it gets going.  Common lodging houses, Jack the Ripper and his victims, crime, vice and unsavoury characters – this was their stomping ground, where they earned their living and their bed for the night: where they drowned their sorrows and ultimately, where they died –  sometimes by violence, sometimes by dissipation and sometimes, I suspect – with blessed relief

Dorset St 1888

We have 17th century Huguenot silk weavers weaving their own strands on the loom of Dorset street and the Spitalfields area.  The immigrants, the opportunists, the lodging house proprietors.  When machinery replaced the silk workers they left the area.  The  1870’s  saw the tranformation brought about by the slum clearances which in turn made way for tenement blocks –  ruled by landlords like John McCarthy.  Jack the Ripper features strongly in this book.  Mary Kelly, the Ripper’s last victim was killed on Dorset street and Rule retells her sorry story, somehow made even more poignant  by placing Kelly in the context of her environment.

Millers court

The street was later renamed  Duvall Street, but the bricks were so well seeped with disrepute that the black marketeers, gangsters, spivs and the East End gangs are embedded in its fabric. The Kitty Ronan murder in 1909 has an eerie echo of Mary Kelly’s.  In fact the whole of the Dorset Street story relates like a cinema projection of a danse macabre – the dance never finishing and the film on continuous reel.  The book ends in a car park – but the crime continues.  A good researched and interesting read.  There’s an added bonus  at the back – a detailed walk of the Spitalfields area!

More about the book and it’s author here
image 1 Dorset st  2 Millers Court (Ripper Walks), 3 Dorset St 1888 and 4. Dorset St today (London walks)

book image here

‘Authors I’ve Read: Patrick Hamilton’

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2010 by echostains

patrick hamilton

I read 3 Patrick Hamilton books last year and reviewed them all on my ‘Echostains’ blog.  I could transfer them to ‘Bookstains’, but I believe duplicate posts are missed by Google, I will put the links to my reviews here;-


I had watched ‘Twenty thousand streets under the sun’ when it came on TV, then I had to have the DVD….it was only a short step to reading the book.  My first  taste of Hamilton was underway, though it was quite a time before I got round to reading these three books.   I love the seedy underworld of bygone London.  The real life characters like Francis Bacon (my favorite artist of all time which I still haven’t wrote about – yet), Daniel Farson the journalist, my favorite photographer (and not very nice person) John Deakin, the wonderful Jeffrey Bernard (I love his dark deadpan whingeing, self depreciating humour).  There are reams of Bohemians I could write about  (and I will!) – they all inhabit the seedy side of old London.

HANGOVER SQUARE was the second  of my new Hamilton books.  Same setting – London.  The story is set in a lodging house in the war.  A good read but I found it hurtling towards the end and missing a few serious fences.  Indeed there seemed to be an actual tying up of loose ends for tying up sake.  Some good characters in this book though.

THE GORSE TRINITY  This is the book which was televised in 1987 and called ‘The Charmer’ starring Nigel Havers as Gorse.  I enjoyed this book more than the other two (but not as much as (”Twenty  Thousand Streets under the Sky’).  A wonderful page turner – apart from the end which – well baffled me and left me a bit disappointed.

This reminds me that I have yet to do a review of ‘Twenty Thousand Streets under the sky’ and I must remedy this.  I have done a review of the DVD though which I have watched many times.  This book translated well to screen – well worth watching.  The DVD review HERE