Dominic Cavendish on literature

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An announcement of a rare alignment in the literary firmament. The time: next Thursday evening. The place: Hampstead. The conjunction: the novelist and poet Iain Sinclair (below right) appearing with confreres Brian Catling and Patrick Wright for a discussion about London. The pretext: the paperback launch of Radon Daughters, Sinclair's quasi-epic account of a one-legged X-ray addict set in a recognisably apocalyptic East End. The expectation: elliptical conversation, greater than the sum of the event's parts.

The three draw their inspiration from a sizeable vat of urban memory. Sinclair's imagination (as evidenced in his Victorian thriller debut White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings as well as the acclaimed Downriver) is clearly rooted in the metropolis. He spent years as a rare books dealer and public parks gardener and accompanied Wright around town when the social critic was mapping territory for A Journey Through Ruins, his portrait of London at the end of Thatcher's reign. With Catling - writer, sculptor, performance artist - he has performed in "strange buildings", such as the Old Operating Theatre in Southwark and a "monster doss-house" in Whitechapel. Catling, you may recall, is the man who spent this time last year in the Serpentine, divulging quietly to himself the hearsay history of the gallery's surroundings.

"You won't get a specific reference to a place with Brian," Sinclair explains. "He goes somewhere and dowses for what he takes to be its voice. Patrick is very expansive; he has a grand, ambulant style. I'm somewhere in-between." This triangular dynamic finds its fictional echo in Radon Daughters, in which the narrator is obsessed with a ley line linking Whitechapel, Oxford and Cambridge. Catling and Wright have both moved to the University towns, Sinclair remaining "marooned" in Hackney - "an odd mixture of surreal corruption, middle-class pockets and absolute poverty". London may be a dystopia, Sinclair adds, "but it's an enjoyable, celebratory one". So what on earth are they all doing in Hampstead? "It does seem very alien to my spirit," Sinclair mutters, "but we'll go anywhere".

Waterstone's, 68 Hampstead High Street, London NW3 (0171-794 1098), 7pm 27 Jul

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