The West End Front: The Wartime Secrets of London's Grand Hotels

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Faber, 2012 - Hotels - 362 pages

The Ritz, the Savoy, the Dorchester and Claridge's - during the Second World War they teemed with spies, con-artists, deposed royals and the exiled governments of Europe. And now, Matthew Sweet's West End Front is just as teeming with the incredible cast of characters from this unique period of London's history.

Meet the girl from MI5 who had the gravy browning licked from her legs by Dylan Thomas; the barman who was appointed the keeper of Winston Churchill's private bottle of whisky; the East End Communist who marched with his comrades into the air-raid shelter of the Savoy; the throneless prince born in a suite at Claridge's declared Yugoslav territory for one night only. Matthew Sweet has interviewed them all for this account of the extraordinary events that unfolded under the reinforced ceilings of London's grand hotels.

Using the memories of first-hand witnesses, the contents of newly declassified government files and a wealth of previously unpublished letters, memoirs and photographs, he has reconstructed a lost world of scandal, intrigue and fortitude.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - EricCostello - LibraryThing

Often entertaining account of incidents that took place (mostly) during World War II in the "grand hotels" of London. There's a bit of a cheat in the book, in that the 1947 Savoy Hotel strike is ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - drmaf - LibraryThing

Ultimately a really enjoyable book. Incorrigibly gossipy and with plenty of name-dropping, it manages to reveal a real heart in places. In between the campy goings-on of the habitués of the Ritz, the ... Read full review

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About the author (2012)

Matthew Sweet presents Night Waves and Freethinking on BBC Radio 3, and is the summer presenter of The Film Programme on Radio Four. He is the author of Inventing the Victorians and Shepperton Babylon, which he adapted as a film for BBC Four. His TV programmes include Silent Britain, A Brief History of Fun, The Age of Excess,Truly, Madly, Cheaply and The Rules of Film Noir.

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