“Every deadline was a crisis … No doubt it has something to do with a deep-seated personality defect, or maybe a kink in whatever blood vessel leads into the pineal gland … On the other hand, it might easily be something as simple and basically perverse as whatever instinct it is that causes a jackrabbit to wait until the last possible second to dart across the road in front of a speeding car.” — Hunter S. Thompson quote from “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72″
Ask anyone to do their best pirate impression and you’re guaranteed to hear at least one “Arrr” along with a number of well-known piratisms such as “shiver me timbers” and “scallywag”. But did Golden Age pirates really speak that way?
After tourists and Russian millionaires, nobody seems to love London as much as authors. Over the last few centuries some of the greatest literary masterpieces have been set in the British capital from Thackeray’s Vanity Fair to well, all of Charles Dickens’ novels. In recent years the trend has continued with the likes of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary. The intervening decades also didn’t disappoint and it’s my small opinion that some of the best books about London were written in the first part of the twentieth century.
Here’s a selection of novels that are fifty years and older, which not only reveal how London used to be, but also deliver some finely written and highly enjoyable reads.