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The Streets/Anthony Quinn

One of the many joys of writing for The Rust is the collegiate atmosphere.

I am no sports buff though I follow the fortunes of West Bromwich Albion and I value the opinions of  Alan (Tanner) Ivan (Conway), Doug (Heath) Rex (Williams) and  Tom (Hollingsworth) on any book I review with a sporting theme. However I am closer to the arts team.

The other day I had a latte with Neil Rosen.

He was expounding as only Rusters can on the omission of Stanley Kubrick in the series on great directors on Sky Arts. He admired most of all his versatility that produced Barry Lyndon, a costume drama, Clockwork Orange, a dystopian view of a violent society, Dr Strangelove, a brilliant political satire, and Full Metal Jacket, a Vietnam war movie.

The only link was the consummate cinematic values of Kubrick.

Neil asked me if there was any writer I admired for his versatility and I replied Anthony Quinn. Even amongst the most critical of my reading friends his books are admired and enjoyed.

Curtain Call, Freya and Eureka are a trilogy around the arts but the first is more set in the theatre, the second in the political, post-World War Two world and Eureka the film milieu of the sixties with a dash of crime.

Half the Human Race features a depressed Edwardian cricketer and according to our cricket writers his demons are as relevant to many a modern player.

Our Friends Over Berlin is an espionage thriller set in the Blitz. The common  theme is a strong sense of location borne out of diligent research, and lively characters.

Both qualities appear in the latest book I have read though not the last published The Streets.

This is set in 1882 and largely in the slum quarter of Somers Town north of St Pancras. A young cub reporter with a dark  secret David Wildeblood works for a paper interested in stories about Somers Town. He unravels a plot by developers to clear the area supposedly for philanthropic reasons and cash in on the properties.

The squalor of the area is contrasted with the enormous wealth of his godfather Sir Martin Elder who has a mansion near Kensington Gardens which is now Rotten Row. Sir Marin ‘s daughter Kitty is interested in David but he has an unrequited love for Roma the sister of coster monger Jo who works and lives in Somers Town.

There are graphic descriptions of the slums and its dwellers, the workhouse, the philanthropic organisations, journalism as well as a fast-moving plot.

Quinn knows how to tell a story and is especially good at revelation. What is the dark secret of David Wildeblood we know about from almost the first page? This is revealed in a conversation with Roma. Who is behind the mysterious company Condor Holdings that own so many of the Somers Town leases? After the death of their parents how did Roma manage to bring up her younger brother? It’s a cracking read by a talented and versatile author.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts