Twenty Thousand Streets Under the SkyA London Trilogy
by Patrick Hamilton, introduction by Susanna Moore
Patrick Hamilton may be best known now for the plays Rope and Gaslight and for the classic Alfred Hitchcock and George Cukor movies they inspired, but in his heyday he was no less famous for his brooding tales of London life. Featuring a Dickensian cast of pubcrawlers, prostitutes, lowlifes, and just plain losers who are looking for love—or just an ear to bend—Hamilton’s novels are a triumph of deft characterization, offbeat humor, unlikely compassion, and raw suspense. In recent years, Hamilton has undergone a remarkable revival, with his champions including Doris Lessing, David Lodge, Nick Hornby, and Sarah Waters.
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is a tale of obsession and betrayal that centers on a seedy pub in a run-down part of London. Bob the waiter skimps and saves and fantasizes about writing a novel, until he falls for the pretty prostitute Jenny and blows it all. Kindly Ella, Bob’s co-worker, adores Bob, but is condemned to enjoy nothing more than the attentions of the insufferable Mr. Eccles; Jenny, out on the street, is out of love, hope, and money. We watch with pity and horror as these three vulnerable and yet compellingly ordinary people meet and play out bitter comedies of longing and frustration.
The rediscovery of English writer Hamilton (Hangover Square, The Slaves of Solitude) continues with this tale of obsessive love in the low-rent pubs of 1930s London—so evocatively rendered you almost smell the smoke and spilt ale.
No other English writer has written so acutely about sexual infatuation, embarrassment and self-delusion.
— Time Out
Hamilton...loves his ominous narratives. He's a sort of urban Hardy: everyone is doomed, right from the first page....It's sad, but Hamilton's laconic narrative voice is always a joy to read, and as a social historian, Hamilton is unbeatable.
— Nick Hornby
The wonderful 1935 trilogy, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, is set in a pub off the Euston Road. Every detail is spot on; Hamilton's remorseless eye weaves an atmosphere as thick as bar smoke.
— The Independent [UK]
A writer I love is Patrick Hamilton...I am reading his trilogy, which is called Twenty-Thousand Streets Under the Sky. His world is a world of thwarted dreams in the 1920s and '30s. His writing is phenomenally good.
—Wesley Stace, The Newark Star-Ledger