Patrick Hamilton isn’t really as well known as he should be, which is a crime and a shame. He is a fantastic and yet underrated British writers of the post-war era. You may recognise his work in the play Rope which was turned into a well-known Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is a trilogy of novels in one. It’s as bleak as its setting – the rain strewn wintery London streets in the weeks and months before World War II.
This is the ultimate tale of longing, loneliness and sexual desperation. A young man Bob works hard as a waiter and scrimps and saves. He dreams of one day becoming a famous novelist. Then he meets a pretty girl Jenny. Who is capricious, immature and toys with his emotions horribly. We witness his unpredictable emotions oscillate wildly between infatuation, confusion and violent frustration. It’s a disturbing, edge of your seat thriller, fueled by enormous amounts of alcohol and cigarettes imbibed in the shadows of a London pub called The Midnight Bell. This is the tale of how a group of young people find their way through life during one of darkest and most foreboding periods of Britain’s history.
If there would be a soundtrack to this novel it would be some deep, gritty dubstep or perhaps some hard and dark post-punk by Joy Division or some Nick Cave. This is a visceral and powerfully moving novel and you can feel the pain of the characters and their emotional powerlessness and loneliness in your bones. It’s immensely unsettling and the kind of book that stays with you, becomes a part of you in a way. It is not a light read in any sense of the word, it’s heavy but it’s brilliant. 5*/5