A young man comes to London book cover

On first glance this is a jolly nice deco-ish story book cover. On second glance this is a piece of corporate literature. It is the jolly nice cover that sold this to me, of course. Ever the shallow book buyer.

Published in 1931-2 by the Marshalsea Press, London, this book seems to have been issued as a souvenir of the opening of the new Dorchester Hotel. The title story ‘A Young Man Comes to London’ is a flowery but badly written (if not boring) short story about, erm, a young man coming to London. What makes it a bit more interesting are the line drawings by Cecil Beaton. Not the world’s best illustrator but his drawings are identifiable and nice because of whom he was.

The author of said story, Michael Arlen, has an interesting Wikipedia. An Armenian émigré, he was, it tells us, a bit of a dandy, writer and man about London town in the 1920s. Known particularly for driving a ‘fashionable yellow Rolls Royce’ and ‘engaging in all kinds of luxurious activities.’ Whatever that means. But perhaps some of those activities were played out in hotel rooms. And perhaps the Dorchester paid him in kind.

The rest of the book belies its interesting cover. A bit drier than you might hope. There is an essay on the thinking behind building the new hotel, then ‘An architect’s problem-how it was solved’. And worse: ‘Some facts and figures about the Dorchester’. Such as the fact that it took over 160 miles of electric cable to ‘satisfy requirements’ in the new building. Actually that is quite interesting. Then there are some foldout colour illustrations of the new hotel interiors. All looking implausibly spacious and actually lot less than deco than they should have been.

But back to that selling cover. No credit is given for illustrator of the tasty little stuck on label, which makes London look all New York. But the grand pink and grey zigzags are repeated on the endpapers and title page, where they are unfaded and joyous in their deco zinginess.

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