Some New Londonish books

By Rob Last edited 168 months ago
Some New Londonish books

We spotted a couple of reviews of London-related books over the weekend that might be worth adding to the reading-list (once we've finished the pile of books we got over Xmas that is).


The first is The Subterranean railway by Christian Wolmer.

Subtitled How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever, this book is aimed (according to Ian Marchant in the Guardian) at:

"Underground buffs, hip young professionals who hang Simon Patterson's Great Bear on their walls and spend their spare time going to open days at Neasden depot or on "Steam on the Met" jollies."

While we may not yet have attained that level of hip nerdiness we do appreciate the intricate wonders of the Tube system and Wolmer's "entry-level history of the Underground" looks to be the book to expand our knowledge.

Plus it has loads of trivia, and we just love trivia. Did you know for instance that the only reason the Tube doesn't run at night is because a lack of capital meant that the lines were not built large enough: "If London's system had allowed for four tracks instead of two, like in New York, the trains could run at night on some tracks while engineers worked on others".

And did you realise that, as all the trains were steam-hauled for the first 40 years the Metropolitan Lines owners would advertise it as "a health resort for those with asthma" (in fact people used to die from the fumes).


The other book that caught our eye this weekend was a novel; a spy novel to be exact. Now we're not big on espionage thrillers here at Londonist, but when the plot involves two undercover spooks assigned to work undercover in a photo-developing booth at Oxford Circus station, our interest is piqued.

Good News, Bad News is written by David Wolstencroft, who is also the creator of the BBC's hit spy drama Spooks, so he's got a lot to live up to with this one.

Some of the plot devices sound as though they may border on the silly side ("missions are revealed in codes contained in some photos delivered for processing") but we guess that's the whole point of spy novels really. And according to the great Mark Lawson in the Guardian, Wolstencroft has "sharp eyes for modern London: the young rich with their 'mussed-up hundred-quid hairdos', and the fussy eaters whose lunch involves a sandwich and a drink from two different American fast-food franchises."

Could these be the same Londoners who "spend their spare time going to open days at Neasden depot"? We're confused.

Last Updated 10 January 2005