If You Like London, You’ll Love These Three New Booksby Larry Cox on Sep. 05, 2012, under Uncategorized
If you were intrigued by London during the recent Olympics, these books should be on your autumn reading list.
Lost London: An A-Z of Forgotten Landmarks and Lost Traditions by Richard Guard (Michael O’Mara Books Limited, $15.95)
This is a fascinating journey through London’s forgotten past with Richard Guard, your tour guide and one of Britain’s most sought after documentary editors. Unearthing both the extraordinary stories that lie beneath familiar streets and secrets hidden away in the city’s darkest corners, Guard reveals more than 150 locations including those for demolished buildings, underground Roman streets, overgrown cemeteries, abandoned bunkers, and derelict catacombs.
Beautifully illustrated with black and white drawings, this crisply written guide celebrates London’s rich architectural and cultural past. Of special interest is the original Old Globe Theatre, the stark Fleet Prison which was in use as early as the 12th century, the necropolis railroad line from Waterloo Station built for transporting bodies to graveyards including Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, at the time considered the largest in the world, and Tabard Inn, immortalized by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Even London’s forgotten slang is dusted off. Consider these gems: earth bath (the grave), execution day (laundry day), Irish beauty (a woman with two black eyes), Oliver’s skull (a chamber pot), vowel (to vowel is to pay one’s gambling debts with an I.O.U.), and milk the pigeon (to attempt the impossible).
London’s Strangest Tales: Extraordinary But True Stories from over a Thousand Years of London’s History by Tom Quinn (Portico, $15.95)
Although I thought I knew a little about London and it’s colorful past, this book served up so many little known facts it knocked my socks off.
For example, ever hear of the one-legged escalator tester, the Peter Pan statue that popped up overnight in a London park, the unfinished work at Trafalgar Square, the pub considered the dirtiest in the city, and why actors tell each other to “break a leg” before a performance.
Tom Quinn has written more than 30 books including several in his “strangest series” and gathered some of the most fascinating facts about London for his latest alternative guide to the capital. If you have ever wondered where the city’s smallest prison cell is, which monarch showed her breasts to a visiting ambassador, and the name of the poet who requested to be buried bolt upright at Westminster Abbey, this is the source.
Dickens’s Victorian London 1939-1901 by Alex Werner and Tony Williams (Ebury Press/Random House, $39.95)
Charles Dickens described many of the settings in his novels in graphic detail. Imagine actually seeing many of those places in rare old photographic images.
With more than 200 stunning archive photographs, many of which are being published for the first time, the streets and places that Dickens frequented come into sharp focus. Readers can view Trafalgar Square as Dickens would have seen it, old coaching inns, the Thames before the Embankment was built, the construction of the Metropolitan Underground Line, and the little villages that make up greater London today.
Alex Werner, head of History Collections at the Museum of London, and Tony Williams, associate editor of “The Dickensian” and honorable research fellow at the University of Buckingham, have chosen atmospheric images that allow us to get as close to the London of Dickens as we are apt to get.