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'He was called Smith and was twelve years old. Which, in itself, was a marvel …’ A London street urchin, Smith has so far managed to evade the hazards of 18th-century urban life: smallpox, consumption, brain-fever, gaol-fever and even the hangman’s rope. He lives with his two sisters, who earn money from mending and selling clothes taken from the bodies of hanged men. One day, Smith witnesses a murder in a back alley. The killers search the body desperately until they are forced to flee. Unbeknown to them, Smith picked the man’s pocket just before he was killed, and he is in possession of the document they were seeking. Illiterate, he is unable to read it, but he knows that this piece of paper could be the key to his fortune – or could lead him into a danger greater than any he has yet encountered.
First published in 1967, Smith is a page-turning mystery with an atmospheric setting which recalls the novels of Dickens and Fielding. It transports us to a bygone London with its carriages, hangmen and Newgate prisoners. Garfield’s prose is wonderfully evocative, whether he is describing a lurking figure who ‘creaked out of a doorway, like he was hinged on it’, or the highwayman Lord Tom, who ‘wore a melancholy, romantic air like a new green cloak’. Smith is an appealing character – neglected and uneducated, yet wily and endlessly resourceful – and his journey to find a home is both entertaining and touching. Leon Garfield is one of only five authors to have won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he also won the Phoenix Award for Smith. He said, ‘What I try to write is that old-fashioned thing, the family novel, accessible to the 12-year-old and readable by his elders.’ This edition is introduced by Jamila Gavin, Whitbread Prize-winning author of Coram Boy. Peter Bailey brilliantly depicts the shadowy atmosphere of Smith. For the endpapers, he has created a map of Smith’s London, so that the reader can follow the twists and turns of his adventures from Ludgate Hill to Redcross Street.
Review by dimitrihk on 17th Nov 2012
"This is a beautiful edition of an excellent story. The feel of the book itself is pure quality and I particularly like the design on the spine. The story has all the elements of a perfect childre..." [read more]
Review by patrickodaniel on 27th Apr 2012
"I just received my copy and as noted by some of the other reviewers, this is a "little" edition--and indeed it is, about the size of a small paperback (8 inches x 5 1/4 inches). For the price, it sho..." [read more]
Review by stevenew5349 on 13th Apr 2012
"I have heard of Mr. Garfield but to my shame have never read any of his output, so when this little edition appeared in the new extra Folio prospectus I decided to take a "punt". As other reviewers ha..." [read more]