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Roy Smith

On the surface, Ramsgate Street looks like any other working-class neighbourhood in post-war London. Family, friends and neighbours exchange gossip on front steps, chat over warming cups of tea or chase kids away from their prize roses. However, behind the closed doors of the small terraced houses, all the everyday dramas of life play out.

Lou, Alan and their son Michael are doing fine. Lou is the strong centre of her little family, encouraging Michael to express his artistic side and offering a warm and loving ear to her extended family. But when her daughter, Grace, moves back in with them, bringing her good-looking husband, Eddie, and a dubious-looking lodger, Gerald, life starts to take a darker turn.

Every family in the street is battling their own demons; Maurice, Isaac and Ginny are hurt by casual and sometimes violent racism; Charlotte is struggling to bring up her son while her husband Fred is banged up in prison, and Keith is fighting the alcoholism that has ruined his life.

When three people die in quick succession, the more superstitious residents of Ramsgate street breathe a sigh of relief - because bad things come in threes, don't they? But when Lou is taken ill after a dramatic incident in Southend, all the secrets and lies start to emerge and the battling families start to wonder who they will turn to if Lou doesn't recover...

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I was born in Barts Hospital so technically I'm a cockney, or I would have been if the bells of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, had been working in 1946. My mother was from the Angel, Islington, and my father was from Dalston Junction. The setting of this novel is the place where I grew up and went to school. As a child and with scarcely a care in the world, I tramped or Red-Rovered my way across London. Its sights, sounds and smells are indelibly imprinted upon by memory, and the faces and characters of its people in my affections.