By day he’d drink in Soho dens, in the early hours he’d write some of the best short stories of the 1940s: the mysterious, rackety life of Julian Maclaren-Ross

Bitten By The Tarantula

In strict category terms, the author of Bitten by the Tarantula (Maclaren-Ross’s titles nearly always leap up at you from the library catalogue) is a classic English literary bohemian in a tradition that goes back at least as far as Marlowe: one of those people who really do live their lives out of suitcases, whose books are ground out in a procession of rented rooms with the landlord’s boots resounding on the carpetless stair and whose best work appears in a brief window of opportunity before the milieu in which they operate rises up and drowns them. Certainly the form of Maclaren-Ross’s fiction seems intimately connected to the circumstances in which it was composed: written at night, Benzedrine tablets (“My pills”) to hand, in seedy west London hotels after a day spent bar-propping in the Soho drinking dens.

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