Patrick Hamilton

Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962) was born in West Sussex, England. His father was a bullying alcoholic comedian and historical novelist; his mother, a sometime singer. After his mother withdrew him from Westminster School at the age of fifteen, Hamilton worked in the theater and then took up writing, publishing his first novel when he was nineteen and rapidly making a name for himself as an up-and-coming author. In 1927 Hamilton fell unhappily in love with a prostitute—an experience which was to inspire one of his masterpieces, the trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky. In 1932, he was badly injured and permanently disfigured after being hit by a car. Hamilton’s finest works include Hangover Square, a Depression-era psychological thriller about intoxication, infatuation, and murder, and The Slaves of Solitude, a comedy about life behind the lines during World War II, which is also published by NYRB Classics. Both books are marked by a mixture of black humor and, in the words of his London Times obituary, a sensitivity to “the loneliness purposelessness and frustration of contemporary urban life.” Hamilton also enjoyed a flourishing career as a writer of plays, several of which were made into successful movies, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rope, starring Jimmy Stewart, and George Cukor’s of Gaslight, which won Ingrid Bergman an Oscar. Hamilton died of cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure after a lifetime of heavy drinking.

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    Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

    A London La Ronde: Ella harbors a secret love for Bob, Bob is infatuated with prostitute Jenny, and the odious Mr. Eccles has designs on Ella. Hamilton’s psychologically astute novel gives us three stories of thwarted passion.

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    The Slaves of Solitude

    1940s England is a war zone. But for the residents of Mrs. Payne’s boarding house the battlefield is the supper table, and the enemy is the resident of the room next door. Alternately bleak and hilarious, The Slaves of Solitude is a favorite of such writers as Sarah Waters and Nick Hornby.