Bumped into author Ed Glinert at work the other day. I immediately congratulated him on his excellent book, The London Compendium, and told how it was invaluable to have in the bag on a London perambulation. But, I said, why the omission of the outer suburbs? Where’s the Lea Valley, Stonebridge Park, Crystal Palace, Haringey, Wanstead, Twickenham? They wouldn’t let me put them in he said, the publishers didn’t want them, I’ve got a whole book of stuff on those areas waiting to be published, he told me wearing a forlorn expression, his body language re-living the tussles with his editor at Penguin.
Even taking into account the large swathes of London left out of The London Compendium, it’s still far and away the best of the current crop of more literary London guidebooks.
But this blindness to the glories of the London suburbs wasn’t always the trend. Harold P. Clunn’s classic, The Face of London (1970), not only covers the more obvious central districts in fine detail and almost obsessive historical background, but also fits in the likes of Shadwell, Poplar, Canning Town, West Ham, Woolwich, Muswell Hill, Hornsey, Kilburn, Willesden, Cricklewood, and Hendon. The Ward Lock Red Guide (49th edition circa 1950’s) implores you to explore Barnet, Epping Forest, Kew, and Eltham.
Hopefully Glinert’s publishers, Penguin, will feel the spirit of the great London adventurers and have the good sense to publish those rejected chapters.