It would be all too easy to write a book about London in the 1960s and 1970s that deals with the superficialities of the place as they are known around the world: “Swinging London,” Carnaby Street, pornographers in Soho, girls in the latest Mary Quant outfit, Jimi Hendrix and The Who playing in the most fashionable nightclubs. Well, that was the 1960s at any rate; the 1970s in Britain were generally more about serious economic decline and a more derivative approach to culture, and these difficulties were as apparent in London as they were anywhere else. My own memories of London in the 1970s, when I was a teenager, were of a place that was down at heel, running short of money, and low on ideas and creativity.

Waterloo Sunrise, an original, superbly written, and immaculately researched book by John Davis, has the...


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