City of Spades

Written by Colin MacInnes
Review by pdr lindsay-salmon

City of Spades is one of the publisher’s reissues in their Classics of the 20th Century series and called by them a ‘literary gem’. The novel deals with London in the 1960s, at the time when immigration was becoming a government ‘problem’ and multiculturalism began to threaten the smug security of Anglo-Saxon Britain. Although it was well written, with a hint of dry humour and a thought provoking storyline, I personally found the main characters totally unlikeable. Montgomery Pew is a drip, an ineffectual English twit; Johnny Fortune and his fellow Africans don’t show up well either. The book blurb burbles on about a novel committed to youth and vitality, but it read more like crime and criminality to me. I can see how the novel must have shocked and provoked when it was first published, and I think many readers too young to remember the 1960s would enjoy reading the novel for that reason. There is certainly nothing wrong with City of Spades as a piece of fiction, it was just not for me.