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First-Class Fellow Traveller

Terry Eagleton, 2 December 1993

Patrick HamiltonA Life 
by Sean French.
Faber, 327 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 571 14353 9
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... Stalinist, alcoholic, sexually ambivalent, Patrick Hamilton had all the prerequisites of a successful Thirties writer. That his success was uneven would seem simply another sign of the times, the mark of an epoch grimly wedded to failure. His work was praised by Greene, Priestley, Lessing, Powell; but if he survives today it is for a couple of memorably macabre dramas – Rope and Gaslight – which Hamilton himself scorned as callow sensationalism ...
Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Hogarth, 528 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 0 7012 0751 5
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Trust Me 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 249 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 394 55833 2
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Her Story: A Novel 
by Dan Jacobson.
Deutsch, 142 pp., £8.95, August 1987, 0 233 98116 0
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... Patrick Hamilton is remembered today, if at all, for the short pre-war novel Hangover Square, and the stage thrillers Rope and Gaslight. They are good of their kind, but they lack the feel of involuntary masterpieces which still attends their up till now vanished predecessor – the trilogy of novels brought together in 1935 as Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky ...

Just off Lexham Gardens

John Bayley, 9 January 1992

Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... Towards the end of his life (he died aged 58) Patrick Hamilton was taking the cure in some Metroland establishment while Malcolm Lowry was being dried out in another not far off. That was around l960, and the two writers never met; but both had become something of a cult. Hamilton died two years later in more than averagely gloomy circumstances, back on the bottle again; and most of his reputation went with him; but there were always the faithful who remembered and read him, and a few years ago his young man’s trilogy from the early Thirties, Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky, was republished ...

Passing-Out Time

Christopher Tayler: Patrick Hamilton’s drinking, 29 January 2009

The Slaves of Solitude 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Constable, 327 pp., £7.99, September 2008, 978 1 84529 415 1
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The Gorse Trilogy 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Black Spring, 603 pp., £9.95, June 2007, 978 0 948238 34 5
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... was sometimes said, was always in the pub but never really of it. Much the same could be said of Patrick Hamilton, who was best known in his lifetime for his stage chillers Rope (1929) and Gaslight (1938), but is mostly remembered for the expert depictions of joyless interwar boozing in Hangover Square (1941) and the trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets ...

On Rosemary Tonks

Patrick McGuinness: Rosemary Tonks, 2 July 2015

... the allure of city life, the exoticisation of its underside (what she calls, in a line that evokes Patrick Hamilton, ‘the flavour beneath the flagstones’ of London), the push-pull of fascination and disgust – what emerges most strongly from reading her is that she shares their fascination with decay; or, more exactly, the cusp of decay. It’s what ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... own collections of the stuff) or by condescending arts programmers prepared to suffer a ten-minute Patrick Hamilton retrospective – as long as it goes out at midnight. Lowlife fictions, closer to the action than any scissors-and-paste ‘true crime’ anthology, inform us, involve us, excite us, return us to a lost sense of our own mortality. Here the ...

Monster Doss House

Iain Sinclair, 24 November 1988

The Grass Arena 
by John Healy.
Faber, 194 pp., £9.95, October 1988, 0 571 15170 1
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... the world slowed down, physical sensations overwhelmed him. He had infiltrated the pages of Patrick Kavanagh’s Green Fool, but the lyricism was spattered with ancient brutalities, bedridden bachelors, mud-slow policemen, bicycles, stone fields – and, always, the drink. Attending him on the farm, as in the city, never further than the end of the ...

‘Come, my friend,’ said Smirnoff

Joanna Kavenna: The radical twenties, 1 April 1999

The Radical Twenties: Aspects of Writing, Politics and Culture 
by John Lucas.
Five Leaves, 263 pp., £11.99, January 1997, 0 907123 17 1
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... of them forgotten: Douglas Goldring, Leslie Welsh, Edward Shanks, J.D. Beresford, Ethel Carnie, Patrick Hamilton, Alick West, H.R. Barbor, Miles Malleson. To Lucas, these writers differed from the more self-regarding literati in their search for ‘a little-told story: a story not of despair, but of resistance, even vision’. The patricidal ...

Pushing on

John Bayley, 18 September 1986

The Old Devils 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 294 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 09 163790 2
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... will be said. The effect is the exact opposite of the comic principle as met with in the novels of Patrick Hamilton, say, or of Anthony Powell (who is rather engagingly referred to, by one of the Welshmen, as an author presumably Welsh, and who remarked that more marriages come to grief from envy than from jealousy). This is quite an important ...


Jonathan Lethem: Theatre of Injury, 15 December 2016

... for those who’ve suffered such abuses. The reference is to the George Cukor film of the Patrick Hamilton play Gaslight, in which Charles Boyer drives Ingrid Bergman mad with self-doubt through devious manipulations that include the gradual damping-down of the gaslight lamps in their marital home. Use of the accusation might tend to exculpate ...

Come and Stay

Arnold Rattenbury, 27 November 1997

England and the Octopus 
by Clough Williams-Ellis.
CPRE, 220 pp., £10.95, December 1996, 0 946044 50 3
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Clough Williams-Ellis: RIBA Drawings Monograph No 2 
by Richard Haslam.
Academy, 112 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 1 85490 430 2
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Clough Williams-Ellis: The Architect of Portmeirion 
by Jonah Jones.
Seren, 204 pp., £9.95, December 1996, 1 85411 166 3
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... than likely ways. Rose Macaulay collected soap and Storm Jameson socks and blankets for Spain; Patrick Hamilton deserted satirical realism for dystopia and allegory; Stephen Spender meandered Forward from Liberalism, crabwise; Sybil Thorndike joined the board of the Daily Worker; Dylan Thomas insisted that his ‘Ceremony after a Fire Raid’ must ...


Michael Holroyd: Travails with My Aunt, 7 March 1996

... Maidenhead. I didn’t know it was wicked until later when I read the novels of Graham Greene and Patrick Hamilton. My aunt certainly wasn’t wicked. When she stepped out of the house she would usually go, not down into the town itself, but in the other direction up to what were called ‘the fields’ and on to Maidenhead Thicket. She was away for ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... which I worked, were the happily idiosyncratic Communists Sylvia Townsend Warner, Edgell Rickword, Patrick Hamilton, Montagu Slater, Randall Swingler and, around them, particularly in nearby pubs, such friends as Nancy Cunard, Lennox Berkeley, Roy Fuller, John Minton, Dylan Thomas, Julian Trevelyan and so on. Our Time and Theatre ‘Today, like ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... north Norfolk coast. Some edge of the golf course, out of season resort like Sheringham – where Patrick Hamilton dried out, on a regimen of no booze before lunchtime, Hopalong Cassidy novels, and the occasional glimpse from behind net curtains of schoolgirls on horseback. They should have known the real story, because it was there from the ...

Charging about in Brogues

Jenny Turner: Sarah Waters, 23 February 2006

The Night Watch 
by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 472 pp., £16.99, February 2006, 1 84408 246 6
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... modern without being Modernist, exactly. It has Elizabeth Bowen and Rosamund Lehmann in it, and Patrick Hamilton, and Denton Welch. The language is rich in period detail, not locked up for best in the china cabinet, but out there among the everyday cups and saucers, working hard: ‘You nit’, ‘Little git’, ‘You darling’; ‘Look ...

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