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The Doom of London

Fred M. White

Book Overview: 

Here are six stories, each one describing a disaster afflicting London, that were popularly serialized during 1903-1904 in Pearson’s Magazine. The tales depict (1) a deep freeze and unprecedented snowfall; (2) a heavy, blinding, paralyzing blanket of fog; (3) a widespread killer virus; (4) a fraudulent scheme causing financial panic; (5) a minor electrical accident in a tunnel that spirals into catastrophe; and (6) most of the city’s water supply, reportedly contaminated with deadly bubonic bacillus, puts the population in great fear of plague. Is the word “doom” in the book's title accurate, or is it just hyperbole?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .There was the curious tense atmosphere that causes a tightening of the chest and a gripping of the throat before actual knowledge comes. Heedless of all decorum, a member stood behind the Speaker's chair, and called aloud:

The Hotel Cecil in flames.

"The Hotel Cecil is on fire!" he yelled. "The place is well ablaze!"

Fisher darted from the gallery into the yard. Even the prosy Demosthenes collapsed in the midst of his oration, and hurried out of the House. There was no occasion to tell anybody what the magnitude of the disaster meant. Everybody knew that in the face of such a disaster the fire brigade would be useless.

In the Strand and along the approaches thereto, along the Embankment and upon the bridges, a dense mass of humanity had gathered. They were muffled in all sorts of strange and grotesque garments, but they did not seem to heed the piercing cold.

In the Strand it was as light as day. A huge column of red a. . . Read More

Community Reviews

These are the Edwardian equivalent of Michael Crichton books or Irwin Allen disaster movies. The stories show London suffering under a series of calamities: an impenetrable and choking cloud of smog; a new strain of diptheria; a paralyzing winter storm; explosions in the London Tube; a deadly tai...more