A man came in. He had not taken off his hat. His shirt and collar were soiled. He was wearing no overcoat. An unlighted cigar was stuck aggressively in the corner of his mouth. He looked so much like Balham's idea of Hollywood's idea of a Chicago gangster that Dickie, if he had not been scared out of his life, would have roared with laughter… “Whisky and all, blimey.” Snowey had caught sight of the bottle on the mantelpiece. “Carousing in luxury on the wages of shame.” He felt that was a good phrase. “Might as well have a drop meself.” He took the bottle off the mantelpiece. Dickie laughed. He could not help it.
“If I hole up for a bit I won't stand a chance of earning myself no more. You'll have to sausage me a goose's.” “Sausage you a goose's? What the hell are you talking about?” Len had turned round from the window and was staring at Snowey. “Cash me a cheque, dopey.”From the opening scene of the book in Bruce House - then, as now, a homeless hostel in Drury Lane - Curtis, as the flyleaf blurb phrases it, has got his eye in. His sympathy for those on the bottom rung of society is evident here, albeit more equivocally. Snowey might be a charmless lunk, but he's no worse than the cheap, dishonest Dickie or the corrupt Krebs – and, in one key scene he angrily berates a stranger in a pub for telling a joke he feels is mocking honest working men. Played out across London locations from seedy Paddington bedsits to Soho dive bars, this is a hugely entertaining and visceral novel, and it's a shame it's so hard to find - but in this field it has to be classed as essential reading if you can unearth a copy.