About London

Authors of three London books – Iphgenia Baal (The Hardy Tree), Mark Mason (Walk the Lines) and Paul Talling (Derelict London, London”s Lost Rivers) – came to Lewisham Library to talk to Londonist.com editor Matt Brown.


The library’s so full, we’re having to put out lots more seats – the most popular event so far, it appears! Should be starting very soon now

Tonight, @Londonist co-editor Matt Brown talks to three authors of London-centric books

First to speak tonight is Mason, whose book Walk The Lines chronicles his time spent walking the length of every Tube line in London.

Mason was inspired by Phyllis Pearsall, who compiled the original A-Z map and walked every street in London. Wanted to do something similar.

Mason’s other inspiration came when stuck on the Tube – he was staring at the Tube map thinking “I could’ve walked this journey faster…!”

Mason recounts some of the things he saw on his walk, overheard conversation snippets and London and tube trivia picked up around the city.

For instance, the Monument is 202ft tall as it’s 202ft from start of Great Fire; and columns at St. Pancras were hardened with horse urine!

Second author to speak is Paul Talling, who’s really enjoyed stumbling across lost rivers around London, then researching them for his book.

Talling saw similarly titled book from the ’60s about lost London rivers, but it was quite academic; he wanted something portable, with pics

Talling enjoys taking people on walks exploring lost rivers and derelict London – with lengthy pub breaks wherever possible!

Talling selects an extract to read aimed at locals, about Deptford Dockyard, which ultimately proved too shallow & is now Convoy’s Wharf

Baal introduces her novel, which she feels captures “everything London runs on”. It’s about when the railways came to London.

The cheapest land to buy to build railways on was cemetery land. Baal’s book centres on a man with the job of arranging the great digging-up

Baal reads a short extract from her novel, then host Matt opens up the floor to questions from the audience.

First Q, to Mason and Talling, who’ve both wandered a lot of London: is there anywhere they wouldn’t want to go back to?

Talling says there isn’t – while some may suggest Woolwich, say, he’s not worried: “I’m a big boy – & there’s nothing wrong with SE London!”

Mason also perhaps pleases his SE London audience, by suggesting that he most disliked NW London, which he found parts of very depressing.

Next Q relates to London’s history as connected villages. Baal says all Londoners create their own village these days but not location-based

More Tube trivia from Mason: the first all-female-staffed tube station was Maida Vale – it opened during WWI, in 1915.

In response to another Q, the panel discusses the area around King’s Cross/St. Pancras, its safety, and the future of the big gas cylinders

Baal says her book needn’t have been set in London – it was “just a hook” for the story, unlike the others’ books of course.

Talling describes his motivation for writing his books as almost entirely for his own enjoyment – here just loves exploring derelict London

Mason talks about how his line-walking adventures have helped him form a strong relationship with the city

Mason thinks people not from London originally can form stronger bonds w/ the city; Baal, Londoner from birth, disagrees: “I own this city!”

Another great event – thanks to our panel. You know there’s serious London passion present when authors argue over who loves the city most!

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