I didn't get to post this last night as I had already switched off my laptop, but if anyone wonders why I love J. Jefferson Farjeon's writing so much, here are the actual first paragraphs of The Z Murders:
PLACES, like people, have varying moods, and the moods of London are legion. Perhaps you know London best in a mood of restless toil and ceaseless purpose, or else in a spirit of nocturnal mirth and music. Perhaps your instinctive thought lingers in a dull and dreary street oppressed by the broodings of small happenings that never escape beyond front-doors; on the Embankment at dusk, with its gathering of human shadows; on the poverty of Mile End, the pathos of Regent Street, or the hard splendour of Park Lane’s new palaces.
But there is one London which you may never or rarely have met. It is the London of the cold grey hour, and you are wise to miss it, for in its period of transition it has nothing gracious to offer you. The tail-end of a tired blackness. The gradual, grudging intrusion of a light not yet conscious of its purpose. The chill of empty spaces. The loneliness of eternity. Yesterday’s newspaper slowly materialising on the pavement. Like a woman surprised before she has had a chance to shake off the night and beautify herself for the day, London gives no welcome to intruders at this hour. It pays them back heavily for having witnessed the ugly chaos of its re-creation.
Yet every day there are a few who, not from choice, flit silently through this ungracious hour, and nowhere is the hour more ungracious than at a railway station. If you really wish to test the depths of atmospheric depression, visit Platform No. 3 at Euston Station on an early autumn morning. The experience will try your faith, as it tried the faith of Richard Temperley when he alighted on that platform, 5 a.m., after a depressing all-night journey from the North.
I cannot wait to get back to this book tonight. This is how to create an atmosphere right from the first line.