The devastation left behind after the Blitz (Photo: Getty)

Ghosts of the past haunt Pat Barker’s bomb-strewn London

If the early Martin Amis is instantly recognisable by way of its idiosyncratic slang (‘rug-rethink’, ‘going tonto’ etc) then the…

Michael Moorcock (Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty)

Michael Moorcock’s ‘autobiography’

Michael Moorcock has put his name to more books, pamphlets and fanzines than, probably, even Michael Moorcock can count, but…


A novel to cure fear of missing out

Who’d be young? Not 25-year-old Tamsin, if her behaviour is anything to go by. A classical pianist who’s never quite…

Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair and me — Michael Moorcock meets his semi-mythical version

In the late 1980s Peter Ackroyd invited me to meet Iain Sinclair, whose first novel, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, I…

William Hogarth’s ‘Night’, in his series ‘Four Times of the Day’ (1736), provides a glimpse of the anarchy and squalor of London’s nocturnal streets

Dickens’s dark side: walking at night helped ease his conscience at killing off characters

James McConnachie discovers that some of the greatest English writers — Chaucer, Blake, Dickens, Wordsworth, Dr Johnson — drew inspiration and even comfort from walking around London late at night


Cybersex is a dangerous world (especially for novelists)

Few first novels are as successful as S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, which married a startling and unusual…

Winston Churchill leaving Westminster Pier, with Harry Hopkins, John Winant, and William Bullitt Photo: Getty

Powers of persuasion: how Churchill brought America on side

In time for the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death comes this pacy novel about his attempts to persuade the Americans…


Why you shouldn't keep elephants

On 15 September 1885, the world’s most famous elephant, Jumbo, was killed by a train. Jumbo, the star attraction at…

The London terminus of the North Western Railyway in the 1860s, showing a busy scene in front of the Euston Arch, which was demolished a century later

The men who demolished Victorian Britain

Anyone with a passing interest in old British buildings must get angry at the horrors inflicted on our town centres…

What a coincidence

If you are going to read a novel that plays with literary conventions you want it written with aplomb. In…

The figure of the flâneur, captured by Degas in ‘Place de la Concorde’, had its origin in Mr Spectator

Tales of Two Cities, by Jonathan Conlin - review

In Jonathan Conlin’s Tales of Two Cities the little acknowledged but hugely significant histoire croisée of two rival metropoles gets…

The symbolism of the cemetery: the draped urn, popular among the Victorians, is usually taken to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its journey to heaven

How to Read a Graveyard, by Peter Stanford - review

Peter Stanford likes cemeteries. Daily walks with his dog around a London graveyard acclimatised him, while the deaths of his…


Rus in urbe

One of the pleasures of my week is walking across St James’s Square. The slightly furtive sense of trespassing as…


Bookends: … and the inner tube

In the early 1990s, when Boris Johnson was making his name as the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, Sonia Purnell was…


Last of the swagmen

I have hitherto resisted my wife’s frequent recommendations that I should read a daily blog about the life of the…


The making of the modern metropolis

Kate Chisholm describes 18th-century London in all its beastly magnificence


The past is another city

This absorbing book is — in both format and content — a much expanded follow-up to the same author’s very…

The Ritz in the Blitz

‘It was like a drug, a disease,’ said the legendary Ritz employee Victor Legg of the institution he served for…

Chagrin d’amour

The horror of love: Nancy Mitford’s first fiancé was gay; her husband, Peter Rodd, was feckless, spendthrift and unsympathetic, and…

Don’t blur the lines

Did you know that on the Central Line’s maiden journey to Shepherd’s Bush, one of the passengers was Mark Twain? Or that The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Sign of Four were both commissioned by the same publisher at the same London dinner? Or that Harrods dropped the apostrophe from its name in 1921, a full 19 years before Selfridges followed suit? My guess is that you probably didn’t — which is where Walk the Lines comes in.


Talking about regeneration

Iain Sinclair, the London novelist and poet, is always on the move.

We are the past

Julie Myerson’s eighth novel is told by a woman who roams the City of London after an unspecified apocalypse (no power, bad weather).


Deep, dark mysteries

For Peter Ackroyd, the subterranean world holds a potent allure.

Bookends: Capital rewards

London has been the subject of more anthologies than Samuel Pepys had hot chambermaids. This is fitting, as an anthology’s appeal — unexpected juxtaposition — matches that of the capital itself. But it does mean that any new contender has to work hard to justify its publication.

Desk-bound traveller

With a new novel each year, Robert Edric cannot have much time for courting London’s literary establishment, but does he stay at home in East Yorkshire? The London Satyr is set in 1890s London and to me, a Londoner, it seems not merely researched but felt, as if its author has tramped the streets and occupied the world of his characters.