The Lowlife, 2012

This was taken somewhere near the north bank of the Thames, London, UK.

The Lowlife  is a novel by Alexander Baron. It was published in 1963.

This is the only book I’ve read by Alexander Baron – I don’t know why, because it’s brilliant. He wrote several novels, including From The City, From The Plough (1948), and screenplays for film and TV.

From the back of my copy (published in 2001 by Harvill, which was a really interesting independent company – they also published Georges Perec in translation. I applied for a job with them only to be told by the company director and one of the two employees that they’d just been bought out by a big publisher – I can’t remember which, so they weren’t hiring. A real shame.):

East London: home of dog-tracks and boarding houses, winners and losers – mostly losers. Harryboy is lowlife, scum. But if he leaves the track after the thirteenth race quids in, everyone’ll say, there goes Harryboy Boas, King of the Track.

Trouble starts for Harryboy when a new family move into his boarding house and he quickly becomes involved with them; he soon finds himself a hero to the family, but particularly their child, Gregory. As the debts from his addictions grow, Harryboy sinks deeper into London’s criminal underworld, where violence and revenge are the inevitable consequences for those who can’t pay up, and he drags the family with him.

Here’s the first paragraph and a bit:

One day, when I have got a few hundred pounds together, I will take a boat to the Canaries. I’ll look around, and settle in on one of the smaller islands; somewhere out of the way. On four pounds a week, they tell me, you can live like a lord. A thousand would keep me for over four years.

Four years. A lifetime nowadays. We should have such luck.

I will read and swim, loaf about. No-one will interfere, no-one will judge me. If they drop that big cookie I can always go down to the beach and swim out into the warm sea till I can’t swim any more.


All I need is a few hundred pounds.

In our house, the book can be found: sitting room, left-hand bookshelves, third shelf down.

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Thank you, once again,  John and Deanne for making me tinker with titles. Extra thanks to Deanne for  tag ideas etc. And to Terry for sending me in the direction of the shelves in search of ideas, and of course, as always, to Richard at CK Ponderings for being a super-cool collaborator.