The A-Z of Curious London: Strange Stories of Mysteries, Crimes and Eccentrics Paperback – 1 Jul 2013
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Review 1: The section of our bookshelf devoted to ‘secret’, ‘peculiar’ or (as here) ‘curious’ London is chunky, to say the least. What need is there for another volume on lesser-known anecdotes about the capital? Well, this one sets itself apart in two ways: (1) plenty of genuinely fresh revelations; (2) a narrative, storytelling style that feels more readable than the usual fact-packed miscellany. We particularly enjoyed the tale of how the first man to wear a top hat was arrested for donning headgear ‘calculated to disturb timid people’, and a nugget about the only vehicle to ever drive down Burlington Arcade. The author clearly had a lot of fun researching this book, and you’ll get the same from reading it. [THE LONDONIST]
Review 2: A little book of mystery, The A-Z of Curious London provides readers with an image of London that can only be seen by those who look closely. Although not fictional, Gilly endows her book with a quality seen in most novels; curiosity and suspense. Predominately intended as a book to ‘dip into’, Gilly details London’s mysterious goings-on without weighing things down with unnecessary facts. This book is for fast-paced individuals who have an interest in the city: readers are rewarded with snippets of mystery, history and fun. It strays away from ratings and reviews and a tourist guide format, this is no Lonely Planet! Through a series of informative passages, the author reveals a multitude of secrets and facts about our intriguing capital, just fifty minutes away from Colchester. The A-Z of Curious London explores everything from spooky, gruesome tales and shadowy urban myths. An indispensable companion for anybody who loves the city; this compilation has a little something for everyone. One story alludes to the arrest of a man purely due to his wearing of an unconventional hat, whilst another tells of blood-curdling screams on the London Underground. Perhaps the most shocking section reveals the discovery of a skull on a park bench - needless to say, this book is not for the faint-hearted! Gilly makes sure that she is thorough yet concise – her tales are delivered in a quick-fire manner that always leaves the reader satisfied. Complete with scandals, murders, ghosts and haunted houses, this original London guide also sheds light on some unlikely tourist destinations, such as Ham House - reportedly one of Britain’s most haunted houses - and Farringdon Tube Station, which is said to be frequented by the ghost of a young girl murdered in 1758. This unique book certainly has its fair share of surprises! Gilly’s love for London is communicated through each of her carefully constructed chapters, and if you feel the same way about the city and appreciate its hidden gems this is definitely the book for you.[COLCHESTER CIRCLE]
Review 3: The author has amassed hundreds of pieces of information about London - literary , historical and just plain peculiar! The book is a veritable cornucopia of snippets and longer stories. It is illustrated with black and white photographs , prints and drawings. The book is intended as one to dip into whenever the fancy takes you. Some of the tales may be familiar, such as that of the Elephant Man, but there are many more strange stories within this volume. We learn about a dentist who displayed his dead wife in his shop front, an exploding chocolate bar aimed at killing Winston Churchill and the origins of rhyming slang. There are some lesser known facts concerning the Beatles celebrated crossing of Abbey Road plus a great deal more covering various museums , buildings and monuments around London. [SCOTTISH HOME AND COUNTRY]
Review 4: Did you know that a ‘tsunami of beer’ once flooded a popular London street, killing nine people by sweeping them away on a tide of beer? Or that some of the strangest items left behind on the Tube have been human skulls, a pair of breast implants and a bag containing nothing but a Rolex and £10,000 in cash? These are just a sample of the bizarre things you will discover in The A-Z of Curious London; a collection of facts, trivia and strange details that shows London in a new and interesting light. This book is a handy resource for the more quirky bits of London, such as where to go if you want to see Winston Churchill’s dentures or if you want to go have a look round The First Shop in the World. Nicely set out in alphabetical order from the man that was arrested for wearing a top hat, to the most famous Zebra crossing in the world, it’s easy to dip in and out of to get to your favourite tidbits. Even if you know London well, you will learn something new in the pages of this book. Gilly Pickup has done an excellent job of finding odd and unusual facts instead of just your run-of-the mill touristy information and history lessons. Touching on history, science myths and the paranormal, this book will enlighten and entertain anyone with an interest in one of the world’s greatest cities. [THE SPOOKY ISLES]
About the Author
Gilly Pickup is a journalist, travel writer and photographer. She was born in Scotland but has lived in London for 25 years. She has had hundreds of features published on a range of subjects including food, lifestyle, health and wellbeing, history, real life, humour, strange phenomena, folklore, short fiction and travel. To data she has visited over 50 countries. Prior to her journalism career, she was a senior political researcher in the House of Commons and before that, also based in the Palace of Westminster, where she worked as a personal assistant to various MPs.
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