Read City of Spades by Colin MacInnes Online


London has been described as the ‘true hero’ of City of Spades and its author, Colin MacInnes, certainly takes us on a whirlwind tour of the city. His London, however, would have been unfamiliar to many at the time, for this novel – published in 1957 and the first of what’s often described as MacInnes’s London Trilogy – focuses on an emergent black culture. It brings vividLondon has been described as the ‘true hero’ of City of Spades and its author, Colin MacInnes, certainly takes us on a whirlwind tour of the city. His London, however, would have been unfamiliar to many at the time, for this novel – published in 1957 and the first of what’s often described as MacInnes’s London Trilogy – focuses on an emergent black culture. It brings vividly to life the pubs and dance halls that many contemporary readers would have considered firmly out of bounds, offering an alternate mapping of this great city....

Title : City of Spades
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780749001162
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

City of Spades Reviews

  • mark monday
    2019-06-20 06:40

    City of Spades is the first novel in colin macinnes' once-celebrated "London Trilogy", a trio that has at its center Absolute Beginners, which is one of my favorite novels. City is a junior member of the series; perhaps because its portraits of white middle class folks' engagement with african culture is a simplistic one of easy parody of easy targets, or perhaps because its candide-like central character johnny fortune's wholehearted embracing of cultural stereotypes is by its very nature a discomfiting experience...or maybe because the urban patois that is rife throughout the novel comes across as dated or even reprehensible. there is always a certain discomfort when reading a white author's depiction of non-white culture; the reader almost holds their breath in anticipation of any noticeable condescension, lack of realism, or use of stereotype. for me, those were not problems with City; the problem was solely in the jokey characterization of the white characters. perhaps not the worst fault in the world, but i'm not a fan of easy targets in general.writing this review reminds me of an aggravating GR review of The Giving Tree, in which the reviewer takes it upon himself to write the first third of the review in his own version of urban patois. there is so much wrong with a clearly intellectual white guy deciding to use slang in which he is not a fellow traveler and in which he is clearly not familiar, as a joke, to mock something or some people in a way that is neither credible nor speaks of any empathy towards folks who aren't himself - in a way that actually doesn't make a whole lot of sense. the joke becomes pointless, meaningless. while it is irritating to hear various middle class white or asian kids' ease with Nigga this, Nigga that, it is even more aggravating to read easy condescension from an adult who is widely read and who surely must be armed with all the lessons learned from living (and reading) in the adult world. this is, in a way, an opposite of the problem i have with City, but the problems are linked by race and condescension. the white characters in City are jokes and so they speak and think like jokes....but to what end? to make a point that whites are not hep and blacks are the cool cats? the novel overall is a worthy one, funny and poignant and rough around the edges, an entertaining portrait of a certain place and time in swingin' london. but overall i couldn't escape the sense of Methinks the Author Doth Protest Too Much. fortunately, whitey stopped hating himself so much and went on to produce the absolute classic Absolute Beginners.

  • Sophie Cayeux
    2019-06-20 03:32

    Mesmerising. I couldn’t put it down. Review on http://www.snowbeachpublications.comLondon in the Fifties (before Nigeria gained Independence from Britain). The author brilliantly gets into the heads of African students /emigrants (called Spades) and equally well into the heads of White characters (the Jumbles). McInnes shifts impressively from the voice of 18-years-old black Nigerian Johnny Fortune to the voice of Montgomery or Miss Theodora Pace, two white locals who are fascinated by the Spades (and display great kindness and friendship to Johnny Fortune). The author describes the swelling population of Africans (from British colonies and the Commonwealth) in London at that time, their hopes and expectations (that are never realised), the clash in culture, the recurring misunderstandings in inter-racial social interactions, the Spades’ difficulty to adapt to the prevailing rules of civil behaviour. We witness how Spades are sucked - and spiral downwards - into the underworld of gambling, prostitution, drugs and crime. The locations - pubs, dance halls, nightclubs - that Africans from various countries haunt (although Africans from different countries are rivals and not friends, they are bundled as Spades by the Jumbles). There are endless clashes with the Law, resentment by the police force and rampant corruption. Despite it all, the Spades possess an exotic charm and Jumbles are irresistibly attracted to them. Women harass Johnny Fortune. He cannot resist their passion for him/his body, pregnancies follow, a mixed race baby boy is born. Yet Johnny’s values remain unchanged. They have nothing in common with those of the benevolent Jumbles who care for him and continuously finance him after he loses his money gambling - even paying for the cost of his lawsuit. Johnny Fortune is self-centred and self-absorbed. He doesn’t care much for all his female admirers or the mother of his child. He intends to stay a free spirit. Colin McInnes narrates both the White and Black version of the same story thus displaying his intimate knowledge of both sides. It is a deep analysis of London society at the time. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. SWEET SUGAR

  • Don
    2019-05-28 02:13

    Interesting but dated account of relations between black and white in a London still scarred by the recently ended Hitler war. The central white characters, Montgomery and Theodora never rise above upper middle class stereo-types who find blacks vital and exotic. The former's naive willingness to descend at a moment's notice into situations of obvious danger make the novel parodic, a sort of Dantean descent into an addictive hell, The few white working class characters (with the exception of the old white man disgusted with the take-over of his pub) are women horribly damaged by their relations with blacks, as is the fate of the middle class Theodora.But then there is the strange character of Alfie Bongo, the queer boy who wants to be black, and who appears to be dispised by all. Yet he is the one person able to imagine a future, not so distant, when all the stuff about racism has been ditched.So, I've not said much here about Johnny Fortune, the central black character, or any of the other Africans, and the few West Indians. There upsets and dismay hardly seem to merit anythhing as grossd as tragedy, even Johnny's best friend who succombs, rather cheerfully, t the death of a habitual heroin user.But then again there are two black women and the mixed race misfit who is Johnny's half brother. The teenage Cardiff born prostitute (mixed race) and the half brother are pessimistic symbols of what happens when the races mix. Only Peach, Johnny's beautiful, puritanical sister shows fortitude, by rejecting a life where black and white mix and insisting on an African future for her brother's mixed race son.Despite its flippant, hip tone, this is a bleak view of a London where white and black come into contact with one another. Whilst anti-racism may be part of the intent of the story it seems to suggest that equality is only possible at a very remote distance.

  • Kim
    2019-06-27 06:39

    Setting: London, 1957 - Montgomery Pew has just been appointed to a government post to help colonial immigrants settle into English society and avoid some of the pitfalls lying in wait. His first appointment is with a young Nigerian man, Johnny Fortune, who has come to study meteorology. But it is not long before Johnny is drawn into the seedier pursuits of elements of the black immigrant community. Montgomery gets more involved with Johnny and his friends than perhaps he should and, together with his friend Theodora, they visit clubs and parties frequented by Johnny and his new acquaintances.This book, written in 1957, is very much a product of its time with its stereotypical and non-politically correct characters - I considered it quite possible that the author even intended it as a satirical look at such stereotypes in English society at the time and from that point of view I found it quite entertaining, although the ending was a bit sudden and inconclusive. 7/10.

  • Ian Wood
    2019-06-03 06:19

    ‘City of Spades’ is a 1957 novel written by Colin MacInnes at the height of the 1950’s immigration drive in Britain and it tells the story of Johnny Fortune from Largos, Nigeria and his experience’s as an economic migrant to London. Some of the more choice insults for Africans are present in this book but Johnny is very happy to be a spade considering himself to be the Ace of Spades which I’m not convinced would be worn quite so well, his referring to his white friend Montgomery Pew as ‘Jumble’ his pronunciation of John Bull is fantastic but isn’t a name I’ve come across before.As you can imagine Johnny comes up against racist landlady’s and Police as well as the drug dealers and small time gangsters who’s brush he has himself been tarred. I imagine the world MacInnes describes is not a bleak or violent as the reality undoubtedly was however this is a very earnest book and although the liberal sentiment it spells out is fairly predictable it is still worth repeating.It is very unfortunate that some fifty years after the publication of this book some of the issues it outlines are still very current however that does mean that it hasn’t dated at all and reads as though it was written in this millennium.

  • Kristin
    2019-05-29 01:41

    I quite enjoyed this book. It was a super easy read with a good group of characters, if at times confusing keeping track of who's who. I liked the idea of showing the racial issues in the UK at the time from both an African guy newly come to London and a white Englishman, how they interpreted each other's actions, etc. It didn't ring very true, however. A bit too fairytale-like, despite the negative things that happen to the characters from time to time. But who knows if that was even the intention. I've read Absolute Beginners and loved the way it captures teen life and this novel, one of the other London Novels, seems to me, as far as I would know, to capture the black immigrant experience, at least what it would feel like.

  • Henry
    2019-06-14 03:16

    Great! Dated but fab slice of late 50's lifeReally racist (I expected that) but interesting, white author in 50's UK writes a novel set in "Black London" from the perspective of a Nigerian Immigrant.Quite atypical of its time.The 50's period stuff was evocative - the nightlife, reefer peddlers - reminded me of Iceburg Slim, Chester Himes and Autobigraphy of Malcolm X.In a way it reminded me of Andrea Levy "small island" similar time period (although Levy can REALLY write)The problems with this book, are problems with books of this era, inauthentic dialogue,sketchy characters etcDated, of its time. Thoroughly enjoyable.

  • Paul
    2019-05-28 01:17

    A fast-moving, well-told caricature of racial relations in 1950's London. McInnes uses broad strokes in dissecting the characters, who all have a curious habit of making dubious decisions. The story and the style have not dated well. McInnes tried to encase his commentary on the races in the words of his protagonists, and although the intent was most likely pure (he was a journalist), it sometimes causes uncomfortably stilted and shady burlesques. But it's not boring.

  • Umi
    2019-05-29 04:18

    One of those books whose popularity in their day one can understand, but whose datedness today makes one cringe a bit in the waiting lounge at Tegel. It has its moments, sure, but overall doesn't even inspire much comment beyond the aforementioned.

  • Margaret
    2019-05-30 03:27

    Interesting novel for a glimpse into the culture of the period in "underground" London

  • Corey
    2019-06-10 07:29

    A singular voice. Great characters, great dialog.

  • Aiisa
    2019-06-05 04:42

    race and class relations in the late 1950's, friendship, colonialism, Britishness, un-wed mothers

  • P.D.R. Lindsay
    2019-06-25 02:35

    The novel and author have rave reviews elsewhere. The story just wasn't 'my cup of tea' as I found the main male characters distinctly MCP boors.