This book is particularly interesting because it is probably the first book using what Sinclair later came to call 'psychogeography', an obsession he shares with his two close friends Michael Moorcock and Peter Ackroyd. Ackroyd made very free use of this book for his own splendid supernatural mystery story Hawkwsmoor and Moorcock introduces it, offering his own spin on the talented Mr Sinclair, as well as a few passing amiable swipes at half his famous contemporaries. Ackroyd's own riffs on Doctor Dee and a Platonic view of London (both from
Moorcock's own fantastic London novel Gloriana) find echoes in Sinclair's rich reflections on the underlying sense of a city's history reflected in her earth, stones and architecture, written when he was still working as a municipal gardener in London's East End. What Sinclair and Moorcock offer is the raw stuff of their own experience and observation whereas Ackroyd's views are slightly more academic, more enthusiastic at a distance than close-up. But all three writers should be read together to get a sense of another, very different, strand of English fiction which occasionally feeds the imaginations of people like Rushdie, Amis and Self but is hardly recognised in its own right as a vigorous and ultimately far richer canon. This kind of literature has little to do with the consumer age and is built solidly to last, I'd guess, a few centuries. Get this as an introduction to Sinclair and the school of writers he represents, but get Downriver to enjoy him at his finest.