“Death and the City” is a collection of twelve short stories by David Charnick. Each of them deals with the topic of death – well, more with the connection of death and life in London. Or rather: With the ever-existing presence of death and the dead in London.
David Charnick is a historian and tour guide
In these twelve stories, Charnick takes the reader on a journey through time and through different areas of the metropolis. The stories are not connected to each other and the reader meets fictional characters as well as real characters from the past. Charnick takes us from the Romans in Londinium to the present day commuter on the London Underground.
In this volume, there is a story for everyone. The Roman soldier, who is searching for a missing man in Londinium. A woman in a Spitalfields building who suddenly has visions from the medieval past of the building. The story of the woman whose lover is to be hanged at Execution Dock in Wapping. There are body snatchers, workhouse inmates, and there are ghosts that haunt many of the characters. Some stories also feature an element of the supernatural, but it is never exaggerated.
As a reader you realize on every page that the author’s knowledge of London’s history is huge and full of detail. David Charnick is a historian and a tour guide. He even features tour guiding in one of his stories. In fact, he features the start of one of his own tours. I highly recommend everyone to attend David’s tours!
London’s “spirit of place”
Charnick also knows how to create authentic characters. They all fight their inner demons and often these demons are connected to a story set in the past that somehow influences the characters’ lives.
If you read Peter Ackroyd (London: The Biography), you realize that David Charnick admires him. He is even mentioned in one of the stories. Ackroyd, the chronicler of London, is himself fascinated with how the past and the present are connected in the city. For him, this connection is part of the city’s spirit of place, the territorial imperative. It means that the territory influences and shapes the people that live there. For him, the past and present not only coexist, but they are entwined, making the memory of the past present in the now.
In his stories Charnick underlines this idea. The dead are very present in London and in every area they influence people’s lives in the present. An enjoyable read for the lover of London’s history and secrets. Highly recommended!
Author: David Charnick
Title: Death and the City
Published in 2013
More information about David Charnick and his works and walks:
Footprints of London
Photos: Philipp Röttgers
About Philipp Röttgers
Philipp Röttgers (M. A.), born in 1989, is author, musician and writer. He is drummer for PARIAHLORD. Philipp studied »English Literatures and Cultures« in Bonn, Germany. His first book about his favourite band Genesis was published in 2015.
His second book “London and its genius loci – a journey beyond time and place” was published in 2019. Philipp feels deeply connected to London, more than to any other place in the world. He is an expert in the capital’s (and Britain’s) literature and culture. He is also a “Ripperologist” (and was already featured in the magazine of the same name) and of 2020, he also lead walks through London. Get in touch via mail for more information.