Thursday, December 1, 2011
Hamilton was born in Sussex. He Grew up in a succession of rooming houses along the south coast. His father was a Barrister, an alcoholic and a terrible writer. Hamilton left school at seventeen and began to work as a stage hand and sometimes actor. He wrote his first novel at the age of nineteen; a Dickensian tale called Monday Morning, but it wasn't until The Midnight Bell that he began to really find his stride. Hamilton wrote about the great British pub. Pick up trilogy - Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky and you can smell the beer-soaked carpet and the musky cigar smoke. Recognize the characters that gather in taverns and plot and plan and drinking away their troubles. Hamilton wrote about the pleasure and the pains of alcohol, which he was addicted to all his life.
In 1929 something dramatic happened in Hamilton's life. He became famous. His play Rope successful both sides of the Atlantic and later made into a movie directed by Hitchcock. Three years later, and at the peak of his career Hamilton was knocked down by a car, crippled and disfigured he sunk further into the bottle. He was already a heavy-drinker and now became reliant on whiskey to function.
In 1941 Hamilton's Hangover Square appeared. Probably his finest work and one of the greatest ever fictionalized studies of Earl's Court London and the mental deterioration of the human mind. Sadly this book was not given the recognition it deserved and Hamilton is in danger of slipping under the radar in terms of twentieth century literature. This would be a shame for Hamilton is one of the most underrated writers I've ever read.
Hamilton left London during the war and settled in Henley-on-Thames, a small town which inspired his later work. He died in 1962. leaving behind a number of unfinished manuscripts. One or two of his novels have remained in print with penguin, but most titles are out of print and difficult to find.