20,000 Streets Under the Sky

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First edition (publ. Constable)

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Patrick Hamilton.

The three books are The Midnight Bell (1929), The Siege of Pleasure (1932) and The Plains of Cement (1934). They focus on three of the people who populate The Midnight Bell pub in London; the stories interconnect.

The Midnight Bell tells the story of Bob, a sailor turned bar waiter who falls in love with Jenny, a prostitute who visits the pub. Ella, the barmaid at the pub, is secretly in love with Bob. Eventually, Jenny loses interest once Bob has spent all his savings on her.

The Siege of Pleasure relates Jenny's early life as a servant, and her descent into prostitution. Bob and Ella do not feature at all in this novel.

The Plains of Cement focuses on Ella, and is set during the events in The Midnight Bell, although from a different perspective. Ella, still nursing an untold affection for Bob, has to deal with the increasingly unwelcome advances of Ernest Eccles, an elderly customer of the pub. The narrative concludes one day after the final scene of The Midnight Bell.

The first book in particular contains autobiographical elements - Hamilton worked in London pubs before becoming a successful writer, was infatuated with a prostitute at that time, and eventually died of liver failure caused by alcoholism. The books are also notable for their portrayal of working class London in the inter-war period.

The trilogy was published in paperback by Vintage in 2004 (ISBN 0-09-947916-8).


The 1963 film Bitter Harvest was based on the trilogy.

In 2005, the books were serialised and shown on BBC Four, accompanied by the documentary Words, Whisky and Women. The three-part drama was also released on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray.

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