A timeless classic of sleazy London life in the 1930s, a world of streets, full of cruelty and kindness, comedy and pathos, where people emerge from cheap lodgings in Pimlico to pour out their passions, hopes and despair in pubs and bars.
The first relates the story of a barman's obsession with a scheming prostitute, the second is a tale of a "nice girl"'s downfall through drink, and the final novel tells of a plain-looking barmaid's emotional turmoil when pursued by a much older man.
These themes, and the dialogue used by the characters, are inevitably dated. However, Hamilton's wonderfully compassionate writing make simple themes appear to be universal and timeless.
Indeed, loneliness, unrequited love, fear of rejection, unfulfilled dreams etc are components of the universal human experience. However, in Hamilton's hands, these components never result in full-blown despair. The characters are so resilient that there is always, even after the most appalling experience, a note of optimism.
Few British writers have written so eloquently about the simple dreams, modest personal ambitions and cultural limitations of ordinary people in what was then a rigid class society.
In particular, his insight into working class "pub culture" (in these novels and later works such as "Hangover Square" and "Slaves of Solitude") is extraordinary. Its a pity his "research" led to such heavy alcohol dependence, with its resultant impact upon his literary achievement!.
The three novels in "20,000 streets" are a great introduction to Hamilton, and along with his later more sophisticated work, make a case for a much belated re-appraisal of his place in 20th century British literature.