Sam Jordison is the creator and co-editor of Crap Towns and Crap Towns II, books which together, he likes to claim, provide the genuinely rough guide to Britain.
“This is my pick of books where location is everything – and everything is miserable. In no particular order.”
1. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson
Las Vegas is the Crap Town mother ship; the highest form of all that is venal, gaudy and corrupt in the modern world – and Hunter S Thompson is its poet laureate. “This is not a good town for psychedelic drugs,” he tells us. “Reality itself is too twisted.”
2. White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings by Iain Sinclair
Sinclair’s trawl through the violence and filth of London’s past and present is as thrilling as it is nasty. You’ll never look at booksellers in the same way again after meeting his thoroughly disgusting purveyors of old volumes.
3. Lanark: A Life In Four Books by Alasdair Gray
A work of visionary genius inspired by Blake, the Book of Revelation and the sheer bloody misery of growing up in Glasgow. One of the most warped books to have emerged from the late 20th century.
4. Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs
THE most warped book to have emerged from the late 20th century. Naked Lunch is a masterpiece. Its location, the Interzone, the home of the Mugwump, is an utterly sickening creation. No, I do not want to go to Hassan’s Rumpus Room.
5. Inferno (book one of The Divine Comedy) by Dante Alighieri
Grievous fires. Beasts with pointed tales. Rivers of boiling tar. Furies. Devils. Nakedness. It doesn’t get much worse than the “red city” of Dis. And the perverse delight Dante takes in relating the agonies of its inhabitants is still deeply fascinating.
6. Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Jeanette Winterson’s semi-autobiographical account of an adolescence spent in a fundamentalist family among the chimneys and terraced streets of Accrington is innovative, touching and, above all, extremely funny.
7. Living Nowhere by John Burnside
The poet and frequently dazzling novelist takes on his hometown of Corby, which he describes as “a suburb of hell.” It features one of the most convincing accounts of an acid trip ever written. Not surprisingly, it goes bad.
8. Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow
Cold winds and corruption in Bellow’s cruel, cruel vision of Chicago. There’s an eminently quotable line on every page. One picked (just about) at random: “I had gone out one evening to amuse myself in vulgar company and I had fallen into the moronic inferno.” Unsurprisingly, this is the novel that secured the grand old man of American letters a Nobel prize for literature.
9. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
In Brighton, Greene found a town almost as depraved and seedy as his own imagination. The resultant collision was this enduringly powerful and thoroughly unpleasant slice of social realism. Razor sharp.
10. Eloise Millar – Wednesday’s Child
Of course, I’m biased, because I live with the author, but the descriptions of Oxford’s Blackbird Leys estate in this promising debut are bang on the money (or lack of it). Run out and buy 10 copies – then she’ll be able to get me that Italian espresso maker I’ve been craving.