At the Chime of a City Clock
By D.J. Taylor
A comedy-noir thriller from the author of Kept: A Victorian Mystery.
Summer 1931 in seedy Bayswater and James Ross is on his uppers. An aspiring writer whose stories nobody will buy ('It's the slump'), with a landlady harassing him for unpaid rent and occasional sleepless nights spent in the waiting room at King's Cross Station, he is reduced to selling carpet-cleaning lotion door-to-door. His prospects brighten when he meets the glamorous Suzi ('the red hair and the tight jumper weren't a false card: she really was a looker and no mistake'), but their relationship turns out to be a source of increasing bafflement. Who is her boss, the mysterious Mr Rasmussen - whose face bears a startling resemblance to one of the portraits in Police News - and why he so interested in the abandoned premises above the Cornhill jeweller's shop?
Worse, mysterious Mr Haversham from West End Central is starting to take an interest in his affairs. With a brief to keep an eye on Schmiegelow, James finds himself staying incognito at a grand Society weekend at a country house in Sussex, where the truth - about Suzi and her devious employer - comes as an unexpected shock. Set against a backdrop of the 1931 financial crisis and the abandonment of the Gold Standard, acted out in shabby bed-sitters and Lyons tea-shops, At the Chime of a City Clock is an authentic slice of Thirties comedy-noir.
Praise for Kept: A Victorian Mystery:
'Very entertaining and well done, with a sharp appreciation for the details' The Times
'An ingenious tale of madness, murder and deception.' The Guardian
'A stylish page-turner ... all done with humour and cunning.' Sunday Telegraph
D. J. Taylor is a writer and critic. His collection of short stories, After Bathing at Baxter's was published in 1997 and he is the author of six novels: Great Eastern Land (1986); Real Life (1992); English Settlement (1996); Trespass (1998), a satire of 1970s England; The Comedy Man (2001), the story of one half of a comedy duo; and Kept: A Victorian Mystery (2006). His books of non-fiction include Afer the War: The Novel and England Since 1945 (1993); A Vain Conceit: British fiction in the 1980s (1989), a critical look at the quality of fiction-writing in Britain; and most recently, Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940. He is also well-known for his biographies: Thackeray (1999); and Orwell: The Life, published in 2003 to coincide with the centenary of Orwell's birth. This book won the 2003 Whitbread Biography Award.
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- Publication date:
24 Mar 2011
- Page count:
Steeped in historical detail, the novel evokes the sleazy side of the Thirties so vividly that you can almost feel the grease and grime on your fingers. — Anthony Gardner, Mail on Sunday
Engaging, cheerful, opportunist James Ross. You won't forget him or the London he frequents for a long time after closing the book. — Susan Hill, Literary Review
Highly entertaining ... his most accomplished [novel] yet ... highly intriguing and well-researched mystery. — Barry Forshaw
Unique and extremely well read. — The Lady
Summons the spirit of Patrick Hamilton and George Orwell. — Eastern Daily Press
Finely drawn...artful...masterly. — John Sutherland