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144 Piccadilly

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New English Library, London, 1972
(price: 30p; 160 pages)
(originally published in 1971 in the USA by the Richard W Baron Publishing Co)

dedication: For Christa

The blurb on the back:

In the centre of London, squatters and hippies take over an empty mansion. The address is 144 Piccadilly.
Although they are people of peace, the squatters are determined to keep out the police. This leads them to violence and counter-violence.
Samuel Fuller, well-known as a film director and producer, tells their story: of the new young, nourished on idealism and searching for Truth in the face of disenchantment and chaos. This search for new freedoms reveals a wildness that is always tragically near the surface.

Samuel Fuller was the film directing equivalent of someone like Mickey Spillane: a hard-edged no-nonsense kind of auteur. Even when he was working on a decent-sized canvas with a film like 1980's The Big Red One, he still made an uncompromisingly tough movie.

Born in 1912, Fuller started working in films in the late-1940s, initially as a writer but moving into direction as soon as he could. He also knocked out a couple of novels, and clearly enjoyed the form since he went back to books occasionally throughout his long career.

In 1971 he produced this, 'a fictional re-creation of a factual incident with fictive characters.' Written in the first person, apparently as himself, it's the story of an American in London: puzzled by Britain's laws that allow the practice of squatting to continue, he tracks the experience of a group of hippies occupying an up-market property in Piccadilly.

What can you say? It's not bad, not brilliant, but it is a neat piece of reporting on a little piece of England that was finally killed off by the Thatcherite 1980s.

Just out of interest: who the hell used to choose the models for the covers of these books?


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