I am lucky enough to work in the West End of London and am familiar with some, but by no means all of these stories, because that is what this book is, a collection of short stories and anecdotes held together with some geographical glue, as all taking part in the same part of London. I have some issues with the book. Some illustrations or pictures of some of the more notorious locations would have helped (not all of us can picture a "Palladian frontage" for example) and to not have a map is actively criminal. This cannot be to keep publishing costs down can it?
Secondly, I am not sure that the author's propensity to dart between locations, subjects and eras helps the narrative. I appreciate that this isn't a street by street "travel" guide, lord knows there are plenty of them, but using different themes for each chapter on the face it seems like a good idea but the author digresses so often that you find yourself losing track of what the original story was about.
Thirdly, and pedantically, this should be called "W1 chronicles" The author makes the case early on as to what constitutes "his" West End, which is fair enough, but to not include Covent Garden and the bit of Theatreland on St Martin's Lane, basically WC2, seems a bit short-sighted. I appreciate what he is trying to do, juxtaposing Mayfair and Marylebone with what the common idea of what constitutes the "West End", but to not include the area up to the city of London seems like a chance missed.
That said there are loads of books on this area out there and this usefully collects many of their stories together in one place.
A companion book to EAST END CHRONICLES, here Glinert takes a look through the last 300 years of the history of the West End (defined as the area boundaried by Marylebone Road/Euston Road, Tottenham Court Road and Piccadilly).
Glinert spends a lot of time looking at the artistic and Bohemian history of the place but this basically boils down to giving potted histories of some of the artists, writers and musicians who lived there - including Francis Bacon, Jimmi Hendrix and Dylan Thomas - most of which come down to drinking stories, which lose their lustre very quickly. There's also a good potted history of some of the criminal elements that controlled the West End, which interestingly brings in certain well known East End elements such as the Krays. The way in which the artistic and criminal fraternities inter-mingled is well depicted.
The best chapter is the one that deals with the experiences of the West End during World War II, which mingles the attempts to maintain glamour with the brutalities of the war experience.
Spirituality and mysticism also plays a big part in the book, with attention given to Crowley and others. Personally I found these less interesting, but if you're into the occult then there's value to them.
As with EAST END CHRONICLES there's a comprehensive bibliography and index and it's a good resource to dip in and out of.