This is a fascinating portrait of a talented author, whose reputation and works have been highly regarded but often been neglected when compared to other writers from the same era. It follows Patrick Hamilton’s life from the third child of a braggart and bully of a father and a possessive and adored mother to his decline and descent into alcoholism. Nigel Jones examines the family of Patrick Hamilton in detail, especially the relationship with his beloved mother and his older brother, Bruce. It is a fact that his family, although relatively wealthy and comfortable, were not all that they seemed and it is this discrepancy between the view shown to the world and the reality which highlights Hamilton’s distrustful and cynical nature, as well as his tendency to self destruct.
Another important event in Patrick Hamilton’s world view came through his family and their declining fortunes around the time of the first world war, which led to him moving into a series of boarding houses, cheap hotels and rented rooms, mostly with his mother. This insight into the world of genteel poverty and dispossessed, lonely people marked him as a writer, as did his reliance on alcohol and his time spent with streetwalkers and in public houses.
This book takes us through Hamilton’s life – his marriages, the road accident he had which affected him greatly and, most importantly, his work. This includes his early love of poetry, novels and plays. At times you feel that the author had so much information available from his brother Bruce that the relationship was given possibly more importance than it merited. However, this is a good assessment of his work, life and how his reputation has changed over the years. It is a shame that his works have been often neglected over the years, as was a powerful and important author. If you are interested in what made him the writer he was, then this is a good account of his life and work.