This is the first of what I hope will be many "guest reviews" here at Booklad. Scott Ingalls is the director of a recent short film called "he Wright Bros. Episode 4". You can see the film and the previous episodes at channel101.com. I worked as an actor on this episode. So, when we shot the first scene a few weeks ago, I found myself at Scott's supercool "faux Elizabethan" apartment in West Hollywood. It used to part of Charlie Chaplin's Studio, as his guest cottages, and is a wonderful place to shoot a scene set in the late 1800's. Of course, actors always have to wait and I made a bee-line to Scott's bookshelves. They were very impressive with sections on design, film, modern fiction, graphics and travel. I could see Scott had broad interests and was a good reader. So I asked him what he was reading and he said "Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets" by Stephen Smith. He showed me the book and it looked so interesting I knew I wanted Scott to do a guest review. Well, here it is. PS. They took a neat picture of Scott with the book, but he didn't send it along with the review! I think I can forgive him (this time...)
UNDERGROUND LONDON TRAVELS BENEATH THE CITY STREETS by Stephen Smith, Little,Brown, 2004,
ISBN 0316 861340
Stephen Smith has a distinct, personal voice, and he takes what could be a dry history, or stoic travel guide, and really creates his own story out of his discoveries, and so it is not only the arcane and forgotten passages, and practices, that lie beneath London, but also his journey through them, that the reader is allowed to glimpse in UNDERGROUND LONDON.
Interspersed among the conversationally written pages are rare gems of exciting antiquity, that inspire the reader to delve deeper into the topics that are so colorfully introduced in the book. For the avid Anglophile, the text may be too remedial to be truly enjoyed; to the initiate, maybe a basic historical text should be read first, in order to fully enjoy the author’s many witty references, but for those with a foundation of English history, and a basic taste of modern British culture, the book can be a easily dipped into and enjoyed to readers taste, making it a very good bed-time read.
I bought this book, second hand, in a charming used bookstore near Queensgate, on my last visit to London. It was almost midnight, and the store was open. In the shop window the owner had arranged only books with a red (or predominantly red) book jacket. Frankly, the shop had me at “open”, but the display was too good to resist. The shopkeeper was friendly and exceptionally helpful. We had the place virtually to ourselves, and soon had assembled a tower of books at the register. I can easily say that I enjoyed buying the book much more than the text itself. I am planning to relocate to London this year, and I am currently doing research for another show based, not surprisingly, on some of the more mysterious parts of London.