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Peter Murray

 

High Buildings, Low Morals. Another sideways look at twentieth-century London.

by Rob Baker

Reviewed by Don Brown

 

Fans of Rob Baker’s blog ‘Another Nickel in the Machine‘ and his earlier collection of tales of the West End of the 20th century, ‘Beautiful Idiots and Brilliant Lunatics‘ will not need any further recommendation to buy his new selection of stories of the characters – performers, club owners, crooks and hangers on – from London’s night life.

The title comes from a Noel Coward quote (and Coward is a recurrent visitor throughout the book) “I don’t know what London’s coming to – the higher the buildings, the lower the morals.” and provides a dozen cause celebres of the last century – huge stories in their time that filled acres of newsprint – which have now been completely forgotten.

There’s Tallulah Bankhead seducing schoolboys at Eton (“We don’t at all mind you taking some of the senior boys over for a smoke or drink or a little sex on a Sunday afternoon. That doesn’t upset me. What does upset me is you giving them cocaine before chapel.“) Or Lord Boothby – formerly Parliamentary Private Secretary to Winston Churchill – and his deeply suspect ‘friendship’ with Ronnie Kray, or the drug-related death of the actress Billie Carleton in 1918.

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Peter Murray

 

Curiocity: In Pursuit of London81qroio6ojl

by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose

Review by Don Brown

This book can be ordered from John Sandoe Books

This is a fantastic – in all sense of the word – book about London, one that reimagines the ‘guidebook’ in the same way that Peter Ackroyd’s London: the Biography reinvented historical writing about the capital. And just as Ackroyd set a benchmark, every new guide to London will now be viewed with reference to Curiocity.

Like London it seems like a huge, sprawling mass to begin with, but get closer and you’ll see it is organised into 26 chapters – illustrated with hand drawn maps – that explore a different aspect of the city, from Atlas to Zones, by way of Dust, Knowledge, Vanitas and Wyrd.

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Peter Murray

 

9780750968232The Blue Badge Guide’s London Quiz Book

by Mark King, History Press, 2016, £7.99.

Review by Don Brown

Available from Amazon

To become a London Blue Badge tourist guide takes two years of training. Guides are examined on their knowledge of the history of the capital and their ability to conduct tours (without notes) within Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s, and London’s museums and galleries, as well as conducting walks or coach tours across the city.

They’re an important part of London’s multi-billion pound tourist economy and known as “Britain’s Best Guides”. (I’ll declare an interest here, as I’m a London Blue Badge guide myself.)

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