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Night and the City [Hardcover]

Gerald Kersh , John King (introduction)
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 11.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

11 Oct 2007
Harry Fabian is a ponce, a Flash Harry in an expensive suit, a cockney wide boy who adopts American tones and talks big, yet will never make it to the top. He operates in the Soho of the 1930s, a metropolitan tangle of dodgy geezers, prostitutes, spivs and strong-arm men. Twice filmed, Night and the City is a seminal low-life novel, which presents a vivid glimpse of a lost London. It also marks the return of a lost London author, Gerald Kersh, a maverick character whose life was as colourful as those of his most flamboyant creations. This new edition includes an introduction by John King.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: London Books (11 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0955185130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955185137
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A gem - one of those novels that collapse the distance between then and now, and not in a way that reflects well on us as a species.
-- Time Out, November 14, 2007

An understated literary classic
-- Guardian October 11 2007

From the opening scene it grabs you. Kersh is bound to win a new generation of fans. -- Jewish Chronicle November 2, 2007

From the Publisher

London Books is delighted to announce the re-issue of Gerald Kersh's vintage Soho, low-life masterpiece Night And The City, first published in 1938.

With a backdrop of the build-up to the Coronation celebrations of 1936, Harry Fabian swaggers around the bars, clubs and backstreets of Soho and the West End hustling for a pound note and invariably spending a fiver. He is a wide boy, a spiv and a ponce but most of all a fantasist heavily influenced by Hollywood films. Reality in the shape of exploited employees and prostitutes, family members and the forces of the law gradually impinges on the fantasy. With a colourful supporting cast of night-club owners, hostesses, wrestlers, pimps and barrow-boys Gerald Kersh has created an authentic and seductive landscape of the time and the place.

On first release Night And The City prompted much controversy being an early exposure of the seedier side of London that flourished behind the public face of the changing of the guards, the chiming of Big Ben and famous West End shows. Nevertheless, the novel endured and was filmed twice: firstly with Richard Widmark in 1950 and generally considered a film noir classic, and later starring Robert de Niro in 1992.

This edition includes a substantial introduction by contemporary author John King whose work includes The Football Factory trilogy, Human Punk, White Trash and The Prison House.

Gerald Kersh is the author of 19 novels and hundreds of short stories and articles. He died in the USA in 1968.

London Books is a new publisher formed by authors John King and Martin Knight. The company aims to bring old and new fiction together in a tradition that is original in its subject matter, style and social concerns. London Books believe that the marginalised fiction of the past can be as relevant and exciting today as when it was first published.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book by a Soho face 5 Mar 2008
Format:Hardcover
This is a stunning novel that is hard to put down, such is the
power of the writing style and the warped attractiveness of the main
character, cockney wide boy Harry Fabian. Harry is an amoral spiv fixed on a slippery slope towards prison or, worse, a meeting with the cut-throat razor of the notorious Black Strangler, a disgruntled sap prowling the pubs and clip joints of 1930s Soho. While Fabian is the conman that drives the story, it is the London described by Kersh and the myriad personalities he has created that elevates the novel.

Gerald Kersh was a Soho face himself and his knowledge of the area and its
people means this book is the real deal, not just another observation by an
anthropologist looking in through the window of a dodgy pub he's too scared to enter. Kersh knew the score, and while he probably wouldn't rate Harry as much of a human being, he lets him condemn himself with his treatment of
those who help him, and worst of all, of his faithful streetwalking
girlfriend.

This is a well produced edition and comes with an introduction by John King, author of The Football Factory, who apparently discovered Kersh while walking home drunk through Soho and falling into a remainder bookshop. Kersh would have liked that chance meeting and you will love this book if you choose to read it.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mood music 15 July 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This has that subtle English quality, that mixture of fascination, tolerance and genuine social conscience which marks the 'low-life' writer of the 30s and 40s in both the UK and US. But the UK brand is a bit grittier, bit less shocked by real life and there's a liking for these margin-dwellers which informs even the sleaziest characters. Addictive stuff. That Kersh could write comedy better thn anyone is evident from Fowlers End. I'd like to see some of his wonderful horror stories reprinted, too.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Kersh dramatically contrasts the grasping, ruthless pimp, Harry Fabian with the altruistic artist, Adam. Their women, Zoe the prostitute and Helen, the idealist who,at first, seem worlds apart end up sharing the same greedy lust for money at any price. A cynical, superbly wriiten book with tension in every line that will have you gasping as you recognise its truthfulness. Kersh wrote many novels set during the 30's, 40's and 50's. Read this one and you will be wanting more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low life literature 12 Jan 2011
Format:Hardcover
Night and the City is a slice of London, and Soho life in the 1930s. Harry Fabian is a man in need of money and he doesn't care how he gets it - or how low he stoops.

A tour of soho nightclubs, gaming rooms and clip joints this book recreates the atmosphere of 1930s Soho and London beyond, and is well worth reading for this alone.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "And Some Fools Say There's a God!" 6 Feb 2009
By Reader in Tokyo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was published in 1938. It's Gerald Kersh's best-known work, a memorable 20th century novel of the London netherworld and one of the better examples of British noir.

It depicted the fall of a small-time crook who'd do anything for money and the rise of an artist who struggled to protect his creativity. It blended a concern with depravity and morality with an exuberant style. It's been called a cross between Graham Greene and the American hard-boiled school.

The most memorable character was the crook, Harry Fabian, obsessed with his own reputation and desires, dreaming of the big time, needing always to impress. Linked to him were a number of other characters, with problems of their own. The book was set in the West End and depicted parts of the London netherworld with which Kersh was clearly familiar: a nightclub, a wrestling hall, prostitution, blackmail, seedy bars, middlemen working on the edge of fraud. This was where the writing seemed especially strong.

The author must have delighted in showing all the voices he could do: West End, Cockney, educated crook, middle-class suburbanite, Jewish businessman and working women -- and Fabian himself, a London native who liked speaking American. In one segment, the author even wrote from the point of view of a cat. Other sections excelled in showing the psychology of the morally flawed: a compulsive liar, a compulsive buyer, a gambler, and in describing assorted other bizarre characters. Great set-pieces included Fabian's search across the West End for a mark, a nightclub owner's explanation of a club's operation, a wholesaler's scramble to raise cash, two traders negotiating a deal, a shopping spree, a crazed visit to a club -- including a drunken shift forward to the morning -- a wrestling match, a desperate gambling match. This book showed me where Hubert Selby and many others must've drawn some inspiration.

In the second half of the book, the author seemed to rely increasingly on characters talking back and forth at each other, with less psychological insight and at times a bit more purple prose. The focus was shifted more frequently away from Fabian and over to the noble artist, which was necessary to complete the morality tale but diminished the thrill of the writing for me -- the author's skill lay so much more in depicting the bad than the good. And by the end, given the main character's grim trajectory through much of the book, it felt like the author had spared him the worst of what he deserved.

Excerpts:

"He had highly developed intuitions, proceeding from long and cumulative experience of the customs of the City. I have mentioned how he could appraise a footstep. He could, by a similar method of spontaneous reasoning, read a face, interpret an expression, calculate how much money you were in the habit of spending, or even decide by the look of you which restaurant or café you would probably frequent. He saw London as a kind of Inferno--a series of concentric areas with Picadilly Circus as the ultimate center."

"Bagrag's Cellar is a dragnet through which the undercurrent of night life continually filters. It is choked with low organisms, pallid and distorted, unknown to the light of day, and not to be tolerated in healthy society . . . . Half-exhausted people throw up spasms of febrile energy: they rise in groups without purpose, move round, then sink back again, like stirred-up filth on the bottom of a pond . . . . To take a deep breath in Bagrag's Cellar, now, is like inhaling the combined vapors of a distillery, a dosshouse, and a burning tobacco factory."

"This woman had something about her that was indescribably terrifying. Imagine the death mask of Julius Caesar, plastered with rouge, and stuck with a pair of eyes as small, as flat, and as bright as newly cut cross sections of .38-caliber bullets; marked with eyebrows that ran together in a straight black bar: and surmounted by a million diabolical black hairs that sprang in a nightmarish cascade up out of her skull, like a dark fountain of accumulated wickedness squeezed out by the pressure of her corsets."

"Now, my precious; people love to see other people behaving like idiots, but not seeing themselves doing the same thing. No mirrors except in the lavatories, and there we're going to have pink mirrors, see? . . . . They mustn't see 'emselves in their true colors, my love. When they go out to be sick, let 'em look as if they're having a good time."

"Vi yawned, and from between her pale, painted lips there proceeded a breath such as might come from a pathological specimen in a jar, when the alcohol is evaporating . . . . Her head against the pillow was a study in all the indefinable pale colors of debauch. The pillow case was gray, but Vi's face was grayer, tinged with the chlorotic greeny-yellow of anemia. Rubbed smears of yesterday's rouge gave emphasis to this pallor. Under the laid-on red, her lips were pale pink, and her teeth appeared yellow in the daylight. The penciled lines of her eyebrows had been rubbed off on to the blanket; the metallic green paint with which she colored her eyelids had become mixed with the blue mascara of her lashes, in an unearthly and poisonous bruise color picked out with flecks of silver. This was trickling down into the hollows of her eyes. One of her false eyelashes had come loose, and swung precariously against her cheek as she blinked. She seemed to be liquefying, falling to pieces."

"Every film he had ever seen, and every book he had ever read, rushed together in his brain to form one blazing and magnificent composite, in which he, Fabian, fantastically enlarged, fantastically dressed, leaned backwards in a wild photomontage of champagne bubbles, limousines, diamonds, galloping horses, baize tables, and beautiful women; all whirling and weaving in a deluge of white and yellow chips, and large bank notes; an eternal reduplication of breasts and legs of very conceivable shape, size, and color."

"What was it? Was it that, for the first time in his life, he had become aware of the appalling burden of accumulating lies with which he loaded his soul from hour to hour--the closing coils of deceit which he spun about himself day after day? There passed through his mind a vision of life free from vanity, fiction, and subterfuge. . . a bygone period in his life when black was black and white was white; when one sinned, and confessed, and breathed again. 'Why do I always have to start these tales? They aren't necessary!' he said to himself."
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too tough for some. 31 Jan 2004
By S Smyth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
He's a guy who'd blackmail a man with a dying wife; sacrifice an aging wrestler in a fight for a meagre profit; sell his prostitute girlfriend, whom he lives off, to white-slavers. He's Harry Fabian, one of London town's low-life, with a humble, street-trader brother that loves him all the same.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Noir 22 Aug 2013
By George R. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A most interesting novel highlighting the underbelly of London. Set in the months before George VI's coronation(1936), we see a different sort of life> The characters here are what would be considered lower class, in the mores of the time and their actions. But some were just hard working folks trying to survive the best way they could.

Harry Fabian is the unquestioned star of the book, a little man with delusions of grandeur that had the intelligence and drive to make something of himself. If he'd worked as hard at honesty as he did trying to make the big score, he likely would have succeeded.

But his aim to be a big fish in the pond is fueled by the American films he devoured, the tough guys in the films that thumbed their noses at the straight world. he never seemed to get that they all fell in the end.

He's a pretty loathsome character that sells his girl friend to men and keeps most of the money, all the while pretending he's a big shot, drinking and gambling most of it away.

His current aim is to be a wrestling promoter, seeing the big dollars he thinks will come his way, all the while hustling around for start-up money, then flashes it all away being the big man he claims.

Others get caught up in his schemes as well, though some try to pull away. There's Helen the secretary that wants more out of life. Her bou friend Adam wants to be a sculptor. Zoe is the woman keeping him up and doesn't know he has his eyes on another woman and plans to sell her to white slavers.

London is cleaning up the town for the Coronation ceremonies and that proves the end for all concerned.

Liked this novel by the British authorA most interesting novel highlighting the underbelly of London. Set in the months before George VI's coronation(1936), we see a different sort of life> The characters here are what would be considered lower class, in the mores of the time and their actions. But some were just hard working folks trying to survive the best way they could.

Harry Fabian is the unquestioned star of the book, a little man with delusions of grandeur that had the intelligence and drive to make something of himself. If he'd worked as hard at honesty as he did trying to make the big score, he likely would have succeeded.

But his aim to be a big fish in the pond is fueled by the American films he devoured, the tough guys in the films that thumbed their noses at the straight world. he never seemed to get that they all fell in the end.

He's a pretty loathsome character that sells his girl friend to men and keeps most of the money, all the while pretending he's a big shot, drinking and gambling most of it away.

His current aim is to be a wrestling promoter, seeing the big dollars he thinks will come his way, all the while hustling around for start-up money, then flashes it all away being the big man he claims.

Others get caught up in his schemes as well, though some try to pull away. There's Helen the secretary that wants more out of life. Her bou friend Adam wants to be a sculptor. Zoe is the woman keeping him up and doesn't know he has his eyes on another woman and plans to sell her to white slavers.

London is cleaning up the town for the Coronation ceremonies and that proves the end for all concerned.

Liked this novel by the British author
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice edition of a good book 19 Dec 2010
By wrichard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Henry Fabian is an out and out villain on the make, a pimp and a blackmailer. He inhabits a world of clip joints, brothels and dodgy clubs, all of which makes for an interesting novel. The London Books Classics edition is easy to read with clear print. The introduction by John King sets the scene for new generation of readers. It is a book that deserves not to be forgotten.
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