Book Review: Bleeding London – Geoff Nicholson (Harbour Books – 2014)

A novel about love, dedication, violence, sex, finding meaning in life and revenge, in which London itself is arguably the biggest character.  This is a wonderful book, one I itched to read when work or sleep prevented me from doing so.

Mick Wilton, a gangland enforcer from Sheffield, travels to London to avenge his girlfriend Gabby who tells him that she has been violated by six men whilst she was performing for them.  Mick does this without hesitation or planning, for him it’s simply the right and logical thing to do.  Mick’s disdain for the capital, unwillingness to seek even basic assistance (such as directions), inventive violent streak and complete lack of knowledge about London is humorous and engaging.  

Mick decides to buy a map and finds himself in London Peculiar, a wonderful  sounding establishment stocked with books and maps of the capital.  Mick is assisted by Judy Tanaka, a London born girl who is half Japanese.  Judy is obsessed with London.  Having only a list of names, Mick turns to Judy to suggest some areas of London where the men he is after might live.  Judy is fascinated by what Mick may be up to and becomes embroiled in his activities. 

Despite being violent and unpredictable, Mick makes some insightful and often funny remarks on life and his surroundings.  At one point he gives his opinion of the song ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’.

Well, you know, I’ve always thought it’s a really poxy song.  I mean it’s not good enough to to love a place just because you happen to come from there, is it?  Loving it just because you’re a Londoner is rubbish. Itt’s not a reason, it’s just a prejudice. 

We are introduced to Stuart London, a man who thinks his own name is ridiculous but loves London and operates a company that offers themed walking tours with his wife Anita.  The success of the company means Stuart finds himself surplus to requirements and becomes aimless and disaffected.  His replacement activity involves walking every street in London.  Stuart’s thoughts about his plans to carry out his walk, what sorts of streets are included, how he will document what he sees and his determination that it will not be a ‘sightseeing’ trip is very absorbing.  Stuart identifies with Pepys but feels at a disadvantage because Pepys lived through more momentous times. 

Judy is the link that connects Mick and Stuart.  One man is beginning to love London and the other is becoming tired of it.  

The book was originally written in 1997 and there are references to the use of phone boxes, video cassettes and Littlewoods that alert you to the fact that it was not written more recently.  

Finally, just look at the cover, it’s brilliant.  

Thi is a thoroughly enjoyable book and I would not hesitate to recommend it.