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Reading - Night and the City

This short novel is by Gerald Kersh and follows the lives of a group of associated people who all work in Soho in the 30s. One is a night club hostess, another a hustler and pimp (or ponce to use the period vernacular), another is a would be sculptor who in the course of the book turns his hand to waiting, running a nightclub and wrestling (perhaps a slice of autobiography there). There is not much in the way of plot although there is something of a climax as the Coronation approaches. One review calls it "heavily plotted" which I just don't see. Things happen, certainly but it's more about generating the feel of Soho between the wars. As a gritty, noirish, slice of life, it works very well. It has a suprisingly modern feel about it, chilledchimp said the section she read looked like it was about the 60s, even though it was published in 1938. However those dates were only 22 years apart, and the war and its aftermath took up 15 of those (rationing lasted until 1954) so perhaps social change, or at least the way people spoke, was not so great.

I also enjoyed The World, the Flesh & the Devil, a collection of Kersh's fantasy stories but that was a while ago.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 2nd, 2010 11:41 am (UTC)
Kersh was an excellent author. I once spent quite a lot of time writing a pastiche that was going to be a clue in a Call of Cthulhu adventure that never quite came together - I could never get Kersh's style quite right.
Aug. 2nd, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
It's difficult to identify his style in N&TC. He gets quite florid at times but there's a lot of dialogue, sometimes he reports on what people are thinking, sometimes he has their thoughts as if they were dialogue. Emotions tend to run high in his scenes, there's usually someone shouting at someone else. I love the character of the little grifter Fabian as he becomes ever more desparate and detached from reality.
Aug. 3rd, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
Night and the City
I recently Netflix'ed the 1950 movie version of this novel, with Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian. It's a very effective, moody noir, with some nice location shooting in London, although it's post-war rather than between-the-wars Soho (and filmed in the UK in part because the director, Jules Dassin, knew he was about to be blacklisted in the US).
Aug. 3rd, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Night and the City
I've ordered it form play.com. I've heard good things about it but: "When Kersh sold the film rights for $40,000, all the important aspects of the book were removed, so he joked that he was the highest paid writer in history because they paid him $10,000 a word - for the title. After receiving the script, he suggested that they perforate it and hang it on a nail [to use as toilet paper]. A later script was used for the 1950 film directed by Jules Dassin and starring Richard Widmark."
Aug. 4th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
Now that I've got reading time on the train to and from work, I feel like reading something a bit different and these sort of "London novels" are sounding attractive.

Interesting that the pimp Fabian shares a surname with Robert Fabian, Scotland Yard's most famous detective of the 40s and 50s, who must already have been active when Kersh was writing...
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )