Ripper Street, Call the Midwife and the enduring appeal of London’s East End

Ripper Street
Ripper Street

It’s no surprise to me that the two prime slots on the BBC Sunday night schedule are both filled with stories set in the place where I was born East London. The lawless alleyways, courtyards and tenements of the area have long been a rich source of inspiration for both popular and literary fiction.

Along with his journalistic exploration of East London Dickens, accompanied by members of Scotland Yard’s newly formed CID, visited pubs, opium dens and penny gaffs. He also used East End locations in his books such as the Red Cow public house in Pickwick Papers and his most famous villain, Fagan, was supposed to have been based on an East End fence named Ikey Solomon.

Dickens wasn’t alone in finding the squalid streets east of the City rich pickings. It’s just a short stroll along the Highway to Limehouse where Fu Manchu, Max Rohmer’s dastardly and inscrutable baddie, masterminded a Chinese criminal empire. (more…)

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