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City of Spades
Colin MacInnes
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City of Spades (London Trilogy #1)

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  146 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Allison & Busby (first published 1957)
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(showing 1-30 of 246)
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mark monday
City of Spades is the first novel in colin macinnes' once-celebrated "London Trilogy", a trio that has at its center Absolute Beginners, which is one of my favorite novels. City is a junior member of the series; perhaps because its portraits of white middle class folks' engagement with african culture is a simplistic one of easy parody of easy targets, or perhaps because its candide-like central character johnny fortune's wholehearted embracing of cultural stereotypes is by its very nature a dis ...more
Interesting but dated account of relations between black and white in a London still scarred by the recently ended Hitler war. The central white characters, Montgomery and Theodora never rise above upper middle class stereo-types who find blacks vital and exotic. The former's naive willingness to descend at a moment's notice into situations of obvious danger make the novel parodic, a sort of Dantean descent into an addictive hell, The few white working class characters (with the exception of the ...more
Ian Wood
‘City of Spades’ is a 1957 novel written by Colin MacInnes at the height of the 1950’s immigration drive in Britain and it tells the story of Johnny Fortune from Largos, Nigeria and his experience’s as an economic migrant to London. Some of the more choice insults for Africans are present in this book but Johnny is very happy to be a spade considering himself to be the Ace of Spades which I’m not convinced would be worn quite so well, his referring to his white friend Montgomery Pew as ‘Jumble’ ...more
I quite enjoyed this book. It was a super easy read with a good group of characters, if at times confusing keeping track of who's who. I liked the idea of showing the racial issues in the UK at the time from both an African guy newly come to London and a white Englishman, how they interpreted each other's actions, etc. It didn't ring very true, however. A bit too fairytale-like, despite the negative things that happen to the characters from time to time. But who knows if that was even the intent ...more
Great! Dated but fab slice of late 50's life
Really racist (I expected that) but interesting, white author in 50's UK writes a novel set in "Black London" from the perspective of a Nigerian Immigrant.
Quite atypical of its time.
The 50's period stuff was evocative - the nightlife, reefer peddlers - reminded me of Iceburg Slim, Chester Himes and Autobigraphy of Malcolm X.

In a way it reminded me of Andrea Levy "small island" similar time period (although Levy can REALLY write)

The problems with this b
A fast-moving, well-told caricature of racial relations in 1950's London. McInnes uses broad strokes in dissecting the characters, who all have a curious habit of making dubious decisions. The story and the style have not dated well. McInnes tried to encase his commentary on the races in the words of his protagonists, and although the intent was most likely pure (he was a journalist), it sometimes causes uncomfortably stilted and shady burlesques. But it's not boring.
P.D.R. Lindsay
The novel and author have rave reviews elsewhere. The story just wasn't 'my cup of tea' as I found the main male characters distinctly MCP boors.
race and class relations in the late 1950's, friendship, colonialism, Britishness, un-wed mothers
Interesting novel for a glimpse into the culture of the period in "underground" London
A singular voice. Great characters, great dialog.
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MacInnes was born in London, the son of singer James Campbell MacInnes and novelist Angela Thirkell, and was educated in Australia. He served in the British intelligence corps during World War II.

He was the author of a number of books depicting London youth and black immigrant culture during the 1950s, in particular City of Spades (1957), Absolute Beginners (1959) and Mr. Love and Justice (1960).

More about Colin MacInnes...

Other Books in the Series

London Trilogy (3 books)
  • Absolute Beginners
  • Mr Love And Justice

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