This is the first book I have read by Alexander Baron (1917-1999 having heard very positive things about his work. He was a renowned London author, best known for his novel The Lowlife(1963).
His first novel, From the City, from the Plough (1948), was a best seller. It was based on Alexander Baron's own war service, fighting across France from the Normandy D-Day beaches. Baron went on to write many London novels which were similarly based largely on personal experience and observation.
King Dido (1969) is set in the years just before World War 1 and it's a gripping thriller about crime in the East End. It tells the story of Dido Peach, who is drawn into the violent world of protection rackets and gang warfare. Peach, a contradictory character, has his late father’s violence and strength combined with his mother’s concern for living a respectable, decent life. He rules his two younger brothers with a rod of iron and tries to live up to his mother's expectations. His family’s attempt to lead a virtuous life brings them into conflict with a local family of thugs led by the monstrous Ginger Murchison. Dido Peach and Ginger Murchison engage in a vicious and memorable street fight.
The novel abounds with memorable characters, not least Inspector Merry - a cunning, ambitious and relentless policeman.
The book is full of extraordinary period detail and vividly evokes the world of the East London slums. This alone makes it a special book, however the period detail is also aligned to a genuinely gripping story and an array of unforgettable characters. A superb book. I cannot to read more of Alexander Baron's work.