A year in literary Mayfair & St James’s
Since opening on Curzon Street in 1936, Heywood Hill has established itself as one of London’s leading literary institutions, extending its bookish expertise to assist readers all over the world. In celebration of the inaugural Mayfair & St James’ Literary Festival, the bookshop invites its customers to explore the local area it calls home. A Year in Literary Mayfair & St James’s is a new and special iteration of the shop’s famous bespoke subscription service, A Year in Books. Priced at £195 and including a mix of hardback and paperback books, each of the titles has been specially selected to provide readers with an imaginative tour of Mayfair & St James’s, demonstrating the area’s rich contribution to literature in the twentieth century and beyond.
- At Bertram’s Hotel, Agatha Christie
Miss Marple books into Bertram’s hoping for rest and relaxation, but beneath the establishment’s veneer of refinement, violence lurks… Not so at Mayfair’s Brown’s Hotel, though, where Christie regularly stayed on her own visits to London, and which is widely believed to have inspired this crime classic.
- The House on Half Moon Street, Alex Reeve
As its title suggests, Reeve’s debut work of crime fiction, published earlier this year, takes as its setting the murky streets of Victorian Mayfair. It follows a young coroner who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation, whilst also concealing secrets of his own…
- The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
Mitford’s most famous and most brilliant novel was written during her tenure as a bookseller at Heywood Hill in the 1940s. With connections both to high society and the literary elite, Mitford drew many of her contemporaries to the shop, helping secure its reputation as a London cultural institution.
- 4. A Question of Upbringing, Anthony Powell
Another famous Mayfair resident, Powell rented a flat in Shepherd Market. This is the opening title of his most famous work, the twelve volume A Dance to the Music of Time, a social comedy examining the passions and politics of twentieth century bohemian England.
- Moonraker, Ian Fleming
Fleming himself was born in Mayfair, and his spy hero James Bond spends much of his time at the then MI5 headquarters on Curzon Street. This novel features a memorable Bridge scene which takes place in fictional gentlemen’s club Blades, thought to be located close to real-life St James’s club, Pratts.
- Joy in the Morning, P. G. Wodehouse
Perhaps best beloved of Mayfair’s imaginary locals is quintessential English chap Bertie Wooster, who, along with his faithful servant Jeeves, resides in Berkeley Mansions, Berkeley Square. This particular instalment of their adventures is a house favourite at Heywood Hill.
- The Broken Road, Patrick Leigh Fermor
Along with his wife Joan, Patrick Leigh Fermor lived above Heywood Hill’s shop on Curzon Street in the 1940s. This most recent instalment of Leigh Fermor’s travel writing, published posthumously in 2013, narrates the final stages of his journey on foot across Europe.
- Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer
Heyer’s Regency romances make great imaginative use of the St James’ club scene in the 17th century. This novel marks her first foray into the period and is the only one to feature as a character the infamous dandy Beau Brummell, whose statue stands on Jermyn Street.
- Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh
As a ‘Bright Young Thing’, Waugh wiled many an hour away in the clubs of Mayfair and St James’s, and was also a regular customer at Heywood Hill. This novel both glamourises and satirises the roaring twenties club scene which defined the area in that era.
- Possession, A S Byatt
The jewel in the crown of St James’s literary landmarks is The London Library, which takes a starring role in the opening of this novel, when a long-lost letter from a Victorian poet is discovered in the pages of a rare old book from its shelves.
- Whose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers
Sayers’ inimitable amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey is another much-loved fictional Mayfair resident, famously dwelling at 110A Piccadilly. This novel marks Wimsey’s premier literary outing, in which an unidentified corpse appears in the bathtub of a London flat.
- Damage, Josephine Hart
One of the inspirations behind the Mayfair & St James’s Literary Festival, Josephine Hart was a Mayfair resident, best-selling author, and passionate advocate for poetry and literature, who founded the British Library’s Poetry Hour. This, her debut novel, follows the obsessive love affair and subsequent downfall of a British politician.