A novel of intrigue, violence and conflicted loyalties from the author of The Street Philosopher.
Spring, 1853. After a triumphant display at the Great Exhibition in London, the legendary American entrepreneur and inventor Colonel Samuel Colt expands his gun-making business into England. He acquires a riverside warehouse in Pimlico and sets about converting it into a pistol works capable of mass producing his patented revolvers on an unprecedented scale – aware that the prospect of war with Russia means huge profits.
The young, ambitious Edward Lowry is hired by Colt to act as his London secretary. Although initially impressed by the Colonel’s dynamic approach to his trade, Edward comes to suspect that the American’s intentions in the Metropolis are not all they appear.
Meanwhile, the secretary becomes romantically involved with Caroline Knox, a headstrong woman from the machine floor – who he discovers is caught up in a plot to steal revolvers from the factory’s stores. Among the workforce Colt has gathered from the seething mass of London’s poor are a gang of desperate Irish immigrants, embittered refugees from the potato famine, who intend to use these stolen six-shooters for a political assassination in the name of revenge. As pistols start to go missing, divided loyalties and hidden agendas make the gun-maker’s factory the setting for a tense story of intrigue, betrayal and murder.
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Praise for THE STREET PHILOSOPHER:
‘A galloping good story’ The Times
‘Lust, avarice, envy, revenge all play their part in this brilliantly told, well-paced story, which also begs the question, so relevant today, of just how close to action journalists and recorders of war should be allowed’ Daily Mail
‘Plampin’s historical research is impressive, as is his command of detail….his true gift of descriptive power’
Independent on Sunday
1. What was your favourite childhood book?
The William series by Richmal Crompton. The hedgerows, villages and copses of 1930s England seemed like a fascinatingly alien place to me in 1980s Essex; I remember being particularly interested by the stories that dealt (albeit rather lightly) with spy-related paranoia on the eve of the Second World War.
2. Which book has made you laugh?
Any Dickens, but especially David Copperfield; a number of Herman Melville's short stories, particularly "Bartleby the Scrivener", although he makes you feel very guilty for that laugh; Joseph Heller's Catch-22, the great novel about the sheer absurdity of war. More recently, I chuckled at the mordant mocking of self-absorbed media types in Edward Docx's Self Help.
3. Which book has made you cry?
Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware - a poignant tale about family guilt, awkwardness and missed opportunities, rendered in one of the most strikingly original graphic styles I've seen. Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon – after many hundreds of pages of post-modern trickery, the novel suddenly becomes an intensely moving study of loss.
4. Which book would you never have on your bookshelf?
Any form of misery memoir or celebrity autobiography.
5. Which book are you reading at the moment?
The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville; Lady Worsley's Whim by Hallie Rubenhold, an exploration of a notoriously torrid eighteenth-century divorce case; The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne, a vivid account of the siege which ended the Franco-Prussian War.
6. Which book would you give as a present to a friend?
Anything by Chris Ware - beautiful, startling, affecting stuff that I suspect many people would not consider reading as they are graphic novels - but to my mind it's easily as engaging and intelligent as the majority of literary fiction. Very funny in places as well.
7. Which other writers do you admire?
To name only a few: Living: Peter Carey, Kate Grenville, Sarah Waters, Philip Roth, Beryl Bainbridge, Rose Tremain, James Ellroy, Gunter Grass, Chinua Achebe, Pat Barker. Dead: Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Heller, Saul Bellow, Raymond Chandler, Joseph Conrad, Angela Carter.
8. Which classic have you always meant to read and never got round to it?
Middlemarch by George Eliot. I have a pristine copy, in fact, untouched and huge, sitting accusingly on the shelf above my desk.
9. What are your top five books of all time, in order or otherwise?
No particular order:
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Book Description HarperCollins, 2010. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Brand new copy. Bookseller Inventory # 034116