eight.

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton (1941)
 “Then he remembered, without any difficulty, what he it was he had to do: he had to kill Netta Longdon.”
Earl’s Court, London, 1939. George Harvey Bone is obsessed with Netta Longdon, an obsession which sometimes is love, other times hate. Netta has starred in some minor films, but now she spends her days drinking other people’s money and doing little else. And George, who is one of the silent types and a little dumb, is the perfect tool for Netta. 
George has always been a bit awkward, and he has this mood, he described it himself as dead, other use the word dumb, which occasionally comes over him. It always starts with a crack in the brain and then his mood alters to the worse and he often doesn’t remember what happens when he is in this mood. In this dead mood he plans to kill Netta.
I have seldom rooted for a possible murder as I have done in this book because Hamilton has portrayed Netta as a horrible woman and George as a man to pity. The fact that she secretly found fascism, Hitler and Mussolini sexy and the way she calculated every move when it came to money and men, made me really dislike her. 
Patrick Hamilton is one of the best authors I have stumbled upon and I really wish more people would do the same. And Hangover Square is possibly his best work, but it’s been a while since I read Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky so it’s hard to tell. And the Slaves of Solitude was also great. I’m glad I still have the Gorse Trilogy to read. 

eighty-three.

the Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947)

“London, the crouching monster, like every other monster has to breathe, and breathe it does in its own obscure, malignant way. Its vital oxygen is composed of suburban working men and women of all kinds, who every morning are sucked up through an infinitely complicated respiratory apparatus of trains and termini into the mighty congested lungs, held there for a number of hours, and then, in the evening, exhaled violently through the same channels.
The men and women imagine they are going into London and coming out again more or less of their own free will, but the crouching monster sees all and knows better.
The area affected by this filthy inhalation actually extends beyond what we ordinarily think of as the suburbs – to towns, villages, and districts as far as, or further than, twenty-five miles from the capital. Amongst these was Thames Lockdon, which lay on the river some miles beyond Maidenhead on the Maidenhead line.
The conditions were those of intense war, intense winter, and the intensest black-out in the month of December.”
Miss Roach, a woman around forty, had to flee from London during the Blitz. She seeks escape in a boarding house, the Rosamund Tea Rooms, which is occupied by a bunch of lonely souls. All meals are either eaten in silence or follow a strict, polite pattern led by Mr Thwaites. Miss Roach loathes Mr Thwaites, they often quarrel about everything and anything. He has a way of speaking in his own language which sounds like something out of Shakespeare, and it takes a while for the people around him to understand what he is actually saying. Miss Roach has an American lieutenant who takes her out to drinks and kisses in the park now and then. Miss Roach is also friends with a German girl, Vicki, but when she moves to the Rosamund Tea Rooms, Miss Roach is filled with hatred for her.

I have said it before, but I will say it again; Patrick Hamilton writes bloody well. The dark streets of Thames Lockdon and the dark mind of Miss Roach are enchanting and the terror of the war is ever present. Yet I didn’t quite enjoy the book, I think it was too detailed for my liking. Yet I loved the detailed writing, the way the sentences are structured. I love the last sentence in the book. And Miss Roach didn’t get my sympathy at all. I also really liked Doris Lessing’s introduction to the book.

sixty-eight, sixty-seven, sixty-six: twenty thousand streets under the sky

Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton
– a London trilogy

the Midnight Bell (1930)

“The kiss of a wicked woman – the kiss of Sin… The sweet, brief, virginal kiss of Sin! A miraculous and exhilarating contradiction! It remained on his mouth like a touch of violets. There had never been such a kiss in the history of the world.”

Bob is a waiter at the Midnight Bell, a small pub in London. One a very busy night he meets a prostitute, but she is the prettiest girl in London. She is in a poor state, owing a few shillings on her rent. Bob has never lent money to strangers before, but the pretty Jenny, although she protests, gets the money and promises to pay him back. Bob cannot stop thinking about Jenny and starts walking the streets of West End in hope to see her again. And then he does and fell in love. He spends an awful lot of money on Jenny who hardly ever shows up on time, if at all, and is always in a miserable state. Bob is proud of the 80 pounds he has in the bank, but the more he sees of Jenny, the more money gets withdrawn from his account. But he loves Jenny and she is going to pay him back.

“And how could he complain? Languishing husbands might love her to distraction; authors might give her books. She might go to Paris. But she was here now, forgiving him with little pressures – his ‘girl’. She had said she loved him”

the Siege of Pleasure (1932)

“‘All through a glass of port,’ Jenny, the girl of the streets, had said. She had said it in jest, but who shall decline to surmise that she had stumbled upon the literal truth? If Jenny had not taken that first glass she would not have taken the second, and if she had not taken the second she would not have taken the third, and if she had not taken the third she would not then and there have resolved to abandon herself to the pleasures and perils of drink. And if she had not done that, she would not have become involved in the events which lost her her job, and set her going down the paths of destruction.”

The second book in the trilogy is all about Jenny, Bob’s love interest, and that fatal night that made her late for her new job as a maid in service at the age of 18 and thus made her a girl of the streets.

the Plains of Cement (1934)

“‘Doesn’t the lake look lovely?’ said Mr. Eccles, for by now they had walked right round into view of the lake. ‘I shall never forget this lake’.
‘Won’t you?’
‘No. That was where we walked when we first Knew, said Mr. Eccles, giving her another nudge, while Ella concentrated on gropingly on a Letter. A postman alone could curb this prodigious man.”

Ella is the barmaid at the Midnight Bell and one day an older man, Mr. Eccles, asks her on a date to the theatre. A few weeks later they are engaged, but Ella is never sure of her feelings for this much older man with such a temper. And who she really loves is Bob, but he is unaware of her feelings.

Such a strange trilogy, not in chronological order at all and the second book doesn’t really correspond with the other two. I think that if the part about Jenny’s past had been left out, it would have been a much better book. But such lovely language and style of writing.

I agree with Doris Lessing; ‘Hamilton was a marvellous novelist who’s grossly neglected’. I’m definitely going to read more Patrick Hamilton, and I urge you to do the same.