Slowly but very seriously reading every novel that takes place in Soho London, and “Scamp” by the mysterious Roland Camberton is one of the best. Written and published in 1950, this novel tells the tale of a 30 year old who is pinning a lot of hopes on a new literary journal he wants to start called Scamp. But of course he has to raise the money as well as get the writers – and here we have an incredible snapshot of Boho London as well as a London still affected by the war.
The beauty of this book is not really its plotting but its sense of place and time. Camberton is a wonderful observer of London life and people just barely making it. One Soho bar or coffee (cafe) after another – you can basically taste the lukewarm weak tea and the even warmer beer off the page. What makes it for me is Camberton’s take on this world – slightly mocking towards its subject matters – but still you get a full understanding what makes these citizens of Soho tick.
As usual, when you get a Iain Sinclair introduction, that makes the book a must. And this new press that seems to be devoted to one of my favorite subjects – London circ. 1950’s is a sign of superb editorship. New London Editions is the press and the three other titles I have read so far – makes this an exciting discovery.
Available in store and online.