The Gilt Kid
by James Curtis
The Gilt Kid is a street-hardened young spiv who believes that ‘only saps work’, a philosophy that inevitably leads him into a life of crime. The book captures him as he is released from prison for house-breaking and follows the Kid from doss house to caff to Soho bar. But this burglar with communist sympathies isn’t thinking about rehabilitation. Society is unfair and he wants cash in his pocket and a place to live, quickly lining up a couple of robberies in the London suburbs. Complications arise and he is soon dodging the police, checking the newspapers and looking over his shoulder, fearing the worst.
Author James Curtis brilliantly captures the excitement of 1930s London as he delves into the sleazy glamour of the underworld web, a tangle of low-level criminals, prostitutes and chancers. His use of slang is as snappy as anything around today, his dialogue cosh-like as the Gilt Kid moves through the pubs and caffs and clubs of Soho. Curtis knew his subject matter well, and this cult novel cuts through time, doubling as powerful social observation.
Along with Night And The City by Gerald Kersh, The Gilt Kid launched the London Classics series, and is the first of three Curtis novels published by London Books. All three use their plots to highlight the unfairness in society, a dearth of opportunity that leads people to break the law, while at the same time showing the temptations on offer. This edition includes an interview with Curtis’ daughter, who provides candid recollections of her father, an author whose writing deserves far greater recognition.