The author of several seminal books on London’s spaces and places, David Long’s latest outing offers a different perspective on the capital. In ‘A History Of London In 50 Lives’ he looks at the city through the eyes of some of the its most famous and infamous inhabitants.
Organised according to the districts that make up central London and spread across ten chapters, the book covers all the bases – inventors, entertainers, musicians, artists, criminals, activists and politicians all feature.
To give you a few examples, the chapter dedicated to Spitalfields and the City recounts the tale of a unique and brightly coloured bird that took pride of place on the bar in the Cheshire Cheese – one of London’s oldest pubs – for decades, and also reveals details about the life of serial inventor Sir Hiram S. Maxim, who today is only known for the highly lethal machine gun which he developed in 1883.
Chapter 5 looks at Covent Garden and The Strand, and amongst others the reader learns about the war-time scandal that sent celebrated composer and actor Ivor Novello to jail, and the less than stellar military career that followed during the First World War. Also exposed is the story of French prostitute Madame Fahmy who, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, was acquitted of a gruesome murder that took place in the opulent Savoy Hotel in 1923.
As with all of David Long’s London books, ‘A History Of London In 50 Lives’ is written in an informative and engaging style. Its little vignettes of notable characters make it the perfect bedside companion for dipping in and out of whenever the mood strikes. It’s out now, published by Oneworld and priced at £9.99 in paperback and available in all the usual bookshops, as well as online.