Our favourite reads
Here at the London Literary Pub Crawl we are ALL about books, plays, writers and artists. So here are a few of our favourite books we've been reading or have read recently. And if you like the look of the books, you can buy them here too. We've also asked our writer, Nick Hennegan, to comment on some of them.
We get a small commission if you buy them from us, but it won't cost you a penny more. In fact if you did all your Amazon online shopping through us, you'd help a lot! Thanks;-)
In the modern world, writing surrounds us – but how did it develop into the systems we use today, and given the technological developments of the twenty-first century, what does its future hold? This beautifully illustrated book, published to coincide with a landmark British Library exhibition, celebrates the act of writing from across the globe.
Exploring the history of writing and including more than 150 illustrations from carved stone inscriptions and medieval manuscripts to early printing, modern handwriting and digital inputting systems, it reflects on the use of writing over the last 3,000 years and challenges our preconceptions about writing’s decline in the digital age.
We love Julian Maclaren-Ross! If you've never heard of him, but love the between-the-wars writers and poets, you should read this.
Synonymous though he is with Soho, his uniquely strange life included spells in the army and on the French Riviera. His chaotic existence makes Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski appear models of stability and self-restraint. During fifty-two hectic years Maclaren-Ross endured alchoholism, drug-induced psychosis, poverty, homelessness, imprisonment, near insanity and a Scotland Yard man-hunt. At one stage he even stalked and planned to murder George Orwell's glamorous widow!
Of Love and Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross
The key literary figure in the pubs of post-war Fitzrovia, (we start our tour at his favourite pub) Maclaren-Ross pulled together his dispersed energies to write two great books: the posthumously published Memoirs of the Forties and this spectacular novel of the Depression, Of Love and Hunger - harsh, vivid, louche and slangy it deserves a permanent place alongside Coming Up for Air and Hangover Square, a book discussed with actors Caroline Morris and Marc Elliot on our radio podcast.
Writer Nick Hennegan says; "A genius. Up there with Brighton Rock."
JULIAN MACLAREN-ROSS COLLECTED MEMOIRS Paperback – another great Fitzrovia read.
Another one of our writer, Nick's, favourites. A snap-shot of 1940's literary London. It includes Julian's dealings with the likes of Dylan Thomas, who he worked with during the war, writing propaganda films. If you get time, read Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia first. It'll give you another take on the memoir.
Writer Nick Hennegan says; "Yep, one of my favourites. If you know Soho or Fitzrovia you'll love this. And I like the fact I know most of the locations JMR is writing about."
Thames Valley Tales is a collection of 15 short stories by UK-based author Tim Walker. These original stories are based on the author's experience of living in London and Thames Valley towns, and combine contemporary tales with the rich history and mythology of an area stretching from London beyond Oxford into the heart of rural England.
Tim actually wrote to us asking him to include his book on this page and we're happy to oblige! Particularly as the story The Seesaw Sea of Fate, was directly inspired by him going on the London Literary Pub Crawl!
Writer Nick Hennegan says; "I love the notion of short stories. Although I don't know Tim personally, I really like why he decided to start writing."
Nick Hennegan is the multi award-winning writer and producer who came up with the idea and wrote the script for The London Literary Pub Crawl. He was nominated for 'Creative Britain' in the millennium and won a Guinness Award through the Royal National Theatre for his play 'A Ghost of A Chance.' So he wrote a book about it!
Nick writes with humour and candour about the trials and tribulations of running a small-scale theatre company and in the best tradition of 'stream-of-consciousness ' writing, evaluates the theatre scene in the UK and looks at larger life in general . (NOTE: It contains scenes some may find upsetting.)
Writer Nick Hennegan says; "Shucks! Nice to have this here. It became less of a diary and more a stream of consciousness. There's some weird life stuff in here, but I hope you are okay with it all."
One of our fave reads, this edition of the classic tale of Alex and his Droogs shows much less sympathy for the central character than Stanley Kubrick portrayed in the film. This is a fully restored edition of Anthony Burgess' original text. It includes a glossary of the teen slang 'Nadsat', explanatory notes, pages from the original typescript, interviews, articles and reviews. And as we are celebrating the centenary of his birth, there are a couple of episodes of our Podcast dedicated toAnthony Burgess and this book.
Writer Nick Hennegan says; "I loved this book as a boy. Like many, I was drawn to it by the film, which I was too young to see. And like many, I found parts of it truly uncomfortable. This edition is great. Horrowshow!"
We love this book for many reasons. It's by a master and it all takes place around the streets we visit on The London Literary Pub Crawl, in Fitzrovia.
As you might know from our Dylan Thomas and the Fitzrovia Writers tour, Ian himself lived in Fitzroy Square, where much of this book is set and where his main character also lives.
The title was enough to attract us to this. It's a series of books and if you've been on our show, you'll know the pub associated to this! It's a great opening - "My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England."
This might not seem a likely candidate for this page, but not only does Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson live in London, he also has the occasional pint with our writer Nick Hennegan. Plus he wrote nearly all of this book longhand in the pub, something his publishers found amusing, but we completely understood!
Bruce has also just finished recording the Audio Book.
If you've been to Soho, this book is full of real characters AND some real clubs and pubs. It's the story of Northern Lad Alex, discovering the area over 24 hours. Keith was a regular in Soho. Our writer Nick directed Keith's musical version of 'Worzel Gummidge' and his Broadway and West End hit 'Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell.' And he's drunk in most of the venues in this book!
Alan Ayckbourn is one of the most prolific playwrights in the world.
From helpful hints on writing to tips on directing (working with actors and technicians, when to listen to the experts, how to cope with rehearsals), this book provides a complete primer to the art of playwriting.
A great one for down the pub!
London has always been home to outsiders. To people who won't, or can't, abide by the conventions of respectable society. For close to two centuries these misfit individualists have had a name. They have been called Bohemians.
This book is an entertaining, anecdotal history of Bohemian London. A guide to its more colourful inhabitants. Rossetti and Swinburne, defying the morality of high Victorian England. Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley in the decadent 1890s. The Bloomsburyites and the Bright Young Things. Dylan Thomas, boozing in the Blitz, and Francis Bacon and his cronies, wasting time and getting wasted in 1950s Soho.
It's also a guide to the places where Bohemia has flourished. The legendary Café Royal, a home from home to artists and writers for nearly a century. The Cave of the Golden Calf, a First World War nightclub run by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg's widow. The Colony Room, the infamous drinking den presided over by the gloriously foul-mouthed Muriel Belcher, and the Gargoyle Club in Dean Street where the artistic avant-garde mixed with upper-crust eccentrics. The pubs of Fitzrovia where the painters Augustus John and Nina Hamnett rubbed shoulders with the occultist Aleister Crowley and the short-story writer Julian Maclaren-Ross, wearing mirror sunglasses and clutching a silver-topped Malacca cane, held court for his acolytes and admirers.
The story of Bohemian London is one of drink and drugs, sex and death, excess and indulgence. It's also a story of achievement and success. Some of the finest art and literature of the last two centuries has emerged from Bohemia. Nick Rennison's book provides a lively and enjoyable portrait of the world in which Bohemian Londoners once lived, and perhaps still do.
(They still do! Nick H x)
More great books to follow. In the meantime, check out our favourite bookstore in London, the fabulous...
They've a great coffee shop too, if you are in London.