Night And The City

An open-topped sports car races through the West End at night… These days London’s Soho streets are not so mean. The faint undercurrent of corruption still lingers, but now it involves property speculators, not spivs and bookies. Once, though, London low-life writing involved getting in with the wrong people, rather than just hanging out in […]

Underground Myths

Yesterday I asked readers to work out why I had chosen Trafalgar Square & British Museum as my favourite tube stations. Interestingly, although there were hints of a correct answer nobody actually got it right. Both are now closed, and have now passed into London mythology. Trafalgar Square – which I can remember using – […]

A London House

In the evening paper is a house for sale in Hampstead, a gothic Victorian monstrosity of the kind beloved by hedge fund managers. It’s selling for five million and will probably get it. The interior rooms are covered in gilt, with Latin phrases and improving proverbs etched into the ceilings, figurines and stained glass and an […]

A Roomful Of Strangers

In an age of MeToo, proactive diversity and gender blindness (all of which I am heartily in favour) I did start to wonder where all the weird old white men had gone. Now I know. The Pulp and Paperback Book Fair in Bloomsbury brings them out in droves. These are a special breed of hunters, […]

Days & Nights In London

The jump back into London’s life after summer is akin to slamming from one dimension to another. October is crammed with events, some free, some cheap, many outrageously expensive. We’ve had Super Thursday, the day when more books are published than on any other, and the knock-on effect is hundreds of literary events in every […]

Last Of The Crazy Houses

Not long ago I went to a place called Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian mining town in one of the northernmost points in the Arctic Circle. You have to carry rifles because of polar bear attacks, and the temperature reaches minus 40 degrees. The icy wasteland has kept the deserted settlement intact, and there’s a cinema […]

On A Dawn Journey Across London

As my next mystery novel is partly about nightwalking, that peculiar habit which evolved over centuries in London, I’ve been seizing opportunities to see the city at unusual times. The other morning I rose before dawn and headed for the airport. London to Barcelona covers just 32% of my daily steps, thanks to my habit […]

A Man Walks Into A Bar

After posting a piece complaining that London is hardly a 24-hour city, there were a lot of comments, one from Emma at 24HourLondon pointing out that their app would locate around-the-clock London hotspots. A neat idea – except that the first three places I picked were all shut. ‘Round the clock’ appears to mean ‘Open […]

London Myths No.3 – Londoners Are Unfriendly

Americans in London, always friendly, always effusive, make me feel ashamed of our perceived stand-offishness. Once again we have the war to blame for a massive change in social interaction. The class barriers were ironclad before 1939, and if they didn’t exactly disappear after 1945 a new informal friendliness certainly came in. The land-owning gentry […]

London Myths No.2 – London Is A War Zone

Do we really need to go here? Yes, because when a corrupt dictator tries to turn the USA into a banana republic everyone else suffers, and the offensive, ignorant nonsense he spouted about London was parroted by Fox News, stoking the flames of racism. So, some facts. Terrorist attacks; London is a multicultural democracy of […]