London Dead Or Alive
It’s time to take a look at the new books about London and its residents.
To start with, we have ‘A London Pub For Every Occasion’, apparently not written by anyone at all, which is a dubious first. This had great potential, even iff the information is readily available online, and the selection of pubs isn’t bad – but the book is let down by a lack of good detailed writing. There’s no history, just bland snippets, and worse still it’s filled with terrible little drawings that already look dated and utterly fail to capture the unique style of each pub. Fail.
Likewise, you can avoid ‘London’s Strangest Tales: The Thames’ by Iain Spragg, which rehashes lots of tired old,Â old stories about the Thames, almost entirely devoid of the unusual details that made them good stories in the first place. Worse, Spragg’s tone is that of a grumpy old colonel who hates ‘young people’ and can’t resist lazy, folksy filler instead of doing some actual get-off-your-arse research. An absolute shocker.
Best of the bunch is ‘Dead Famous London’ by Jim Dyson, which has some lovely atmospheric photographs of London tombstones and nice full-page biographies of the capital’s notable permanent residents, with an eye for the odder details (Iain Spragg, please take note). There are a couple of howlers (the queue at Madame Tussaud’s is not ‘ubiquitous’, which means everywhere at once) but we’ll let them pass because there are some genuinely eccentric choices here. It’s not every day that a London book shares pages between Amy Winehouse, Alexander Litvinenko (the Russian dissident who was murdered with radioactive green tea by Russia’s mafia-kleptocrats) and Frankie ‘Give Me The Moonlight’ Vaughan.
In London book-related news, Hatchards bookshop is opening in St Pancras Station, just on the left as you go in.