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Author Topic: Great London Novels
steveeeeeeeee
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I've just finished reading Colin MacInnes City of Spades which is the first of his three classic London novels of the 50's. Aside from his unbiased account of the lifestyle of a good looking, intelligent Nigerian immigrant (cliché it may be, but the woman killing prowess and boasting of Johnny Fortune reminded me a fair but of our own Nigerian romeo), what makes the novel fabulous is the street by street imagery of 50's London.

One great moment in the book is when Johnny and his white girlfriend Muriel take a pleasure boat ride from Westminster to Greenwich, the description of London as you pass Tower Bridge and get into the dark badlands of Limehouse and Surrey Docks was fantastic. When the boat reaches the Greenwich it describes the parks and palaces as being of no relation to the smokey city just a couple of miles up river, Johnny Fortune even mentions that he can smell the sea.

So, I'm going to keep an eye out for a second hand copy of Absolute Beginners, but until then what other novels are there out there that anyone can recommend that use London as it's backdrop to such great effect.

[ 06-01-2003, 13:51: Message edited by: steveeeeeeeee ]

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The Quiet Man
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Opening chapter, Bleak House.

Most of Dickens actually.

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garcia en dolor
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the secret agent - joseph conrad - superb evocation of late nineteenth / early twentieth century london

lots and lots of dickens

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steveeeeeeeee
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Yeah, I've got to give Dickens another go, I hated having to read Great Expectations when I was at school, in fact I hated reading anything when I was at school. There should be a rule where great authors aren't inflicted on you at too early an age so you can more readily embrace their work when you're good and ready later in life.
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The Horse
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Manners by Robert Newman - not a classic, but worth a mention for essentially being a whole novel based on one man's paranoia about the roughness of the Caledonian Road.
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Spock na Escada
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Absolute Beginners I found pretty forgetable.
There's plenty of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh novels set at least partly in London.
However I'm having problems thinking of any works of 'serious literature' set in other English cities (deliberately not including Dublin or Edinburgh). Towns yes, (Brontes, Elliot et al) but not cities. Is there a great Newcastle novel I have not yet come across?

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imp
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I once started but failed to finish a Colin Macinnes novel too, though I can't remember which one, I only recall that it was unbelievably poor. By contrast, I think I was the only person in Europe to openly declare that he quite liked the film Absolute Beginners.
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Spock na Escada
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Not quite the only. Over Christmas I sat up to the wee smalls watching "I love 198-whatever year it was that AB was released. Patsy Kensit was allowed to drivel on at great length about what a really great underrated film it is. According to her, Scorcese loves the opening scene. Or was it Coppola? No-one else quoted had anything good to say about it, not even Julien Temple - who made it.
Haven't seen it myself.

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imp
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Ah, me and Patsy. If only I was an extremely high-profile singer with a band.
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Spock na Escada
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I think you missed out the word shagging.
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Wyatt Earp
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Da Void: Anna of the Five Towns (Stoke)? Mary Barton (Manchester)?

Newcastle-wise, I think it's all stars looking down and boats coming in, sadly.

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Gangster Octopus
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Michael Moorcock repeatedly returns to London for his settings. The Jerry Cornelius books were all set round Notting Hill, and I've got, but not yet started, Mother London, which was recommended by an otfer.

And there's Robert Rankin's Brentford Trilogy.

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The Quiet Man
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There's quite a lot of poetry that's evocative of London, isn't there? You'd think of Wordsworth or Blake. (And on another forum, somebody wrote that The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock "always gave me an image of what Soho would be like before I ever saw it. The reality wasn't quite what I imagined but some corners were.".)

The Great-novels-set-in-English-cities-other-than-London Challenge is a tough one, isn't it? I've not read Mrs Gaskell at all, did she do anything?

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Oolon Colluphid LLB
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A lot of Arnold Bennett's novels are set in Stoke, including, of course, Clayhanger.

Isn't Dickens' Hard Times meant to be set in Manchester, even though it's called Coketown in the novel.

[ 07-01-2003, 13:12: Message edited by: Clayhanger ]

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The Quiet Man
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It's Preston. And it's not a great novel in my opinion.

Is Stoke a city, or do the football club just call themselves that?

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