Read Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton Free Online
Book Title: Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky|
The author of the book: Patrick Hamilton
Edition: Vintage Classics
Date of issue: May 6th 2004
ISBN 13: 9780099479161
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 532 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.4
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The Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky trilogy is an amazing achievement, originally published as three separate books: The Midnight Bell (1929), The Siege of Pleasure (1932) and The Plains of Cement (1934).
In 1935, these books were first collected in one volume as Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky.
The Midnight Bell (1929)
Patrick Hamilton’s protagonist Bob, the waiter at a Euston pub called The Midnight Bell, has saved £80 (worth several thousands of pounds in today's money) in the bank through prudence and maximising his tips. Following a chance encounter with Jenny, a prostitute, and with whom he becomes obsessed, and believing he can change her, he becomes ever more reckless and desperate. Towards the end, Bob, realising the folly of his misadventure, concludes "that it had all come from him, and only the hysteria and obsession of his pursuit had given a weak semblance of reciprocation". Basically he'd been played.
As with all the best books by Patrick Hamilton, in addition to a riveting drama, The Midnight Bell also provides a powerfully evocation of London - 1920s London in this instance. The character of Euston, the West End, Soho, and Hampstead, still recognisable to the modern Londoner are beautifully captured, especially the various pubs and cafes which feature so heavily in the story.
The other aspect that rings true so authentically is the dialogue: whether this be the conversations between the regulars at The Midnight Bell, or the somewhat stilted and love lorn conversations between Bob and Jenny, or most powerfully a dreadful scene when Bob visits Jenny in the room she shares with two other prostitutes. The true horror of his situation dawns on Bob, who remains powerless to escape. Frequently these experiences are accompanied by boozing, and then appalling hangovers and self-loathing: clearly something about which Patrick Hamilton had already gained a thorough knowledge.
The Siege of Pleasure (1932)
The Siege of Pleasure is essentially a prequel to The Midnight Bell and the story describes Jenny's drift into prostitution.
In common with Bob, Jenny is the architect of her own downfall. Patrick Hamilton again allows his characters moments of reflection and self-insight during which there are ample opportunities to escape their downward trajectory. It's a clever technique that had me hoping first Bob, and then Jenny, might escape. Like The Midnight Bell, The Siege of Pleasure is superb at bringing the era to life via numerous little details. In this novel, Patrick Hamilton wonderfully describes the household where Jenny gets a job as a live in maid and housekeeper. The two older sisters, Bella and Marion, who employ her, are fabulous creations.
One of the novel's longest scenes takes place over a night out in a pub in Hammersmith. Needless to say, Patrick Hamilton nails both the pub's atmosphere, and the way the evening evolves as two women and two men, first meet and get to know each other as inebriation takes hold and inhibitions melt away. Jenny's descent into drunkenness is one of the best descriptions of getting drunk I have ever read.
Patrick Hamilton also works in an incident of drunk driving - this following his own horrific accident at the hands of a drunk driver. In 1932, whilst walking with his sister and wife in London, Patrick Hamilton was struck by a drunk driver and dragged through the street. His injuries were devastating. After a three-month hospital stay, multiple surgeries (the accident ripped off his nose and left one arm mangled), and a period of convalescence, Hamilton suffered physical and emotional scars that would continue with him for the rest of his life. Some claim this contributed to his alcoholism. It certainly badly affected his self-esteem and he became very self conscious about the visible scars and loss of mobility. (His second play, To The Public Danger, commissioned by the BBC as part of a road safety campaign, was also an account of the carnage caused by drink driving).
The Plains of Cement (1934)
As with the other two books, The Plains of Cement works as a stand alone story, however the reading experience is even richer, for those that read the trilogy in sequence.
When writing this book, Patrick Hamilton saw himself as a Marxist, and, in common with the previous books, part of the book deals with the limited options for someone with no capital. Ella, in addition to herself, has to support her Mother, and Step Father, from her meagre earnings at The Midnight Bell. She also acknowledges that she is a plain looking woman.
Unexpectedly, she is courted by one her customers, Mr Eccles, an older man. Mr Eccles is at pains to point out he has Something Put By, and for Ella's benefit He's Letting Her Know (Patrick Hamilton again employing his customary "Komic Kapitals" to emphasise key phrases, and/or cliches, homilies etc).
Mr Eccles is another of Patrick Hamilton’s monstrous males (which start with Mr Spicer in Craven House (1926), continue with Mr Eccles, and which reach its apogee with Mr Thwaites in The Slaves of Solitude (1947) (although perhaps Ralph Gorse tops them all in The West Pier (1952); and Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse (1953)).
I digress, Mr Eccles at first appears absurd, but quickly becomes more sinister, using his creepy and evasive conversational style, along with this financial independence to trap and coerce poor old Ella. He is lecherous and exploitative. However, Ella is not the naive fool he assumes, and is able to see through him. Some of the book's most appalling scenes are a result of Ella's internal thoughts on Mr Eccles' absurd conversation, conduct and attitudes.
Anyone looking for a happy conclusion, to the trilogy, should look elsewhere. The final story continues the tragic arc of the previous books, and perhaps more distressingly - and unlike Bob and Jenny - Ella is not the architect of her own situation, she's a victim of circumstance.
Ella is one of the most sympathetic characters ever created by Patrick Hamilton and this makes her tale even more affecting. This story confronts the loneliness and sorrow of existence and concludes that all we have is our humour and humanity to confront and counteract this cold truth.
Whilst Hangover Square may be Patrick Hamilton’s best-known London novel I think that Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky trilogy (in particular The Midnight Bell) is a key book in understanding his world view and the way he used his own life to inform his fiction.
The Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky trilogy is a masterpiece. Each story works well on its own terms, however when combined it creates one of the ultimate London novels. The twilight world of ordinary Londoners, trying to get by, yet all too easily seduced or distracted by the capital's temptations before coming crashing back down to earth. Beautifully written, it unerringly captures the world of the London pub, and the desperate lives of many ordinary people in the 1920s and 1930s, from a writer who was familiar with this world and sufficiently skilful to capture its every nuance.
Brilliant - but very, very bleak.
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Read information about the authorHe was born Anthony Walter Patrick Hamilton in the Sussex village of Hassocks, near Brighton, to writer parents. Due to his father's alcoholism and financial ineptitude, the family spent much of Hamilton's childhood living in boarding houses in Chiswick and Hove. His education was patchy, and ended just after his fifteenth birthday when his mother withdrew him from Westminster School.
After a brief career as an actor, he became a novelist in his early twenties with the publication of Monday Morning (1925), written when he was nineteen. Craven House (1926) and Twopence Coloured (1928) followed, but his first real success was the play Rope (1929, known as Rope's End in America).
The Midnight Bell (1929) is based upon Hamilton's falling in love with a prostitute, and was later published along with The Siege of Pleasure (1932) and The Plains of Cement (1934) as the semi-autobiographical trilogy 20,000 Streets Under the Sky (1935).
Hamilton disliked many aspects of modern life. He was disfigured badly when he was run over by a car in the late 1920s: the end of his novel Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Gorse (1953), with its vision of England smothered in metal beetles, reflects his loathing of the motor car. However, despite some distaste for the culture in which he operated, he was a popular contributor to it. His two most successful plays, Rope and Gas Light (1938, known as Angel Street in the USA), made Hamilton wealthy and were also successful as films: the British-made Gaslight (1940) and the 1944 American remake, and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948).
Hangover Square (1941) is often judged his most accomplished work and still sells well in paperback, and is regarded by contemporary authors such as Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd as an important part of the tradition of London novels. Set in Earls Court where Hamilton himself lived, it deals with both alcohol-drinking practices of the time and the underlying political context, such as the rise of fascism and responses to it. Hamilton became an avowed Marxist, though not a publicly declared member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. During the 1930's, like many other authors, Hamilton grew increasingly angry with capitalism and, again like others, felt that the violence and fascism of Europe during the period indicated that capitalism was reaching its end: this encouraged his Marxism and his novel Impromptu in Moribundia (1939) was a satirical attack of capitalist culture.
During his later life, Hamilton developed in his writing a misanthropic authorial voice which became more disillusioned, cynical and bleak as time passed. The Slaves of Solitude (1947), was his only work to deal directly with the Second World War, and he preferred to look back to the pre-war years. His Gorse Trilogy - three novels about a devious sexual predator and conman - are not generally well thought of critically, although Graham Greene said that the first was 'the best book written about Brighton' and the second (Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Gorse) is regarded increasingly as a comic masterpiece. The hostility and negativity of the novels is also attributed to Hamilton's disenchantment with the utopianism of Marxism and depression. The trilogy comprises The West Pier (1952); Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Gorse (1953), dramatized as The Charmer in 1987; and in 1955 Hamilton's last published work, Unknown Assailant, a short novel much of which was dictated while Hamilton was drunk. The Gorse Trilogy was first published in a single volume in 1992.
Hamilton had begun to consume alcohol excessively while still a relatively young man. After a declining career and melancholia, he died in 1962 of cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure, in Sheringham, Norfolk. He was married twice, firstly to Lois Marie Martin in 1930, and a year after divorcing Lois, to Lady Ursula Chetwynd-Talbot in 1954.
--Wikipedia January 9, 2010
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