At the Chime of the City Clock


In 1931 Britain is deep in financial crisis, and coming off the Gold Standard seems inevitable. That summer in a seedy part of London erstwhile writer and poet, James Ross, is unable to find a market for most of his literary work. Reduced to taking a job as a door-to-door salesman he makes half-a-crown commission on every bottle of carpet cleaner he is able to persuade old ladies to purchase. This way he can afford to buy a drink but not pay his landlady the overdue rent.

One day in Kensal Green, James meets Suzi Chamberlain, a glamorous secretary to a dubious boss. Their relationship is fraught with unanswered questions and he finds himself drawn into a situation he would rather not be in. Discovering the truth about his girlfriend comes as a shock to James – alas, not to D.J. Taylor’s readers.

At the Chime of a City Clock starts with all the hallmarks of a book version of a Thirties black-and-white movie thriller. The pace is racy; it flicks in and out as scenes and characters are introduced but slows and soon becomes mired in slang. An aroma of cigarette smoke rises from the pages, and there is a distinct period feel with twopenny bus rides and a night out with change from ten shillings. But, the read is short and the story lacks suspense and tension.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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