Hoxton today is one of the most fashionable parts of inner London, yet within living memory it was the capital's most notorious slum area. 'Hoxton is the leading criminal quarter of London, and indeed of all England', wrote Charles Booth in a famous report at the beginning of the twentieth century. It remained a byword for its combination of poverty and crime until the Second World War - London's busiest market for stolen goods, the centre of the pickpocket trade, home to a razor gang that terrorised racecourses all over southern England. Its main thoroughfare, Hoxton Street, was one of the East End's best-known street markets, but was known also as the roughest street in Britain. This Hoxton was swept away by the Blitz and the slum-clearance programmes. But among the people born there in its heyday is Bryan Magee, author, television broadcaster and Member of Parliament. For him it was home, for his first nine years, until he became an evacuee on the outbreak of war. In this moving and beautifully written book he recalls the vanished world of his childhood and brings it to life again in all its drama and surprise.
Bryan Magee has had a many-sided career. In the 1960s and 70s he worked in broadcasting, as a current affairs reporter on ITV and a critic of the arts on BBC Radio 3. At one time he taught philosophy at Oxford, where he was a tutor at Balliol College. His best remembered television programmes are two long series about philosophy: for the first he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Television Society, while the book he based on the second was a bestseller. From 1974 to 1983 he was Member of Parliament for Leyton, first as Labour, then as a Social Democrat. He is now a full-time author and this book is his twentieth. The others have been translated, altogether, into more than 20 languages.