Writer’s London by Carrie Kania and Alan Oliver

I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent a copy of Writer’s London by Carrie Kania and Alan Oliver, and what a pleasure it’s been leafing through it during lockdown.

Writers' London Cover Picture
Writers’ London by Carrie Kania and Alan Oliver

Both the authors are Londoners, one by adoption via New York, and a love of the city, of writing and writers, permeates the pages. It’s arranged by district, with the authors who lived or who are associated with areas popping up, almost to say hello to us, near the streets they once prowled or wrote about.

Joe Orton, Writers' London
Playwright Joe Orton, who lived and died in Islington

There are plenty of dramatic pictures interspersed with literary quotes, and some wonderful stories concertinaed down into digestible, fun chunks. From the book’s back flap alone I’ve gleaned these gems: ‘William Blake saw visions of angels on Peckham Rye. Kenneth Grahame was shot at three times (all missed) at the Bank of England.’

Alan Bennett quote Writers' London
Alan Bennett on Camden

Did you know that Agatha Christie once lived in the swanky flats in Hampstead which were also home to members of the Cambridge Five spy ring? I wonder if she did, and whether it inspired The Big Four, Destination Unknown or one of her other Cold War whodunits?

Oscar Wilde and Bosie, Writers' London
Oscar Wilde and Bosie during their ill-fated London fling

I knew that Raymond Chandler had lived in South Norwood but had no idea that Sir Authur Conan Doyle moved to South Norwood after his first success with Sherlock Holmes.

Writers' London, Dorothy Parker
Withering and witty: Dorothy Parker

If you’re curious about London, about literary creativity, or about the ways a city can inspire stories, then you’ll love this book. I must admit I’ve really enjoyed it, as a writer of stories set in south east London, particularly as I’ve just contributed a short story to a two-volume anthology called Dark London (available here!!)

Writers’ London is published by ACC Art Books, price £8.99

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