A new exhibition tells the story of “Love, Leda”, a newly discovered, never-before-published novel set in and around the streets of Soho in the years before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act that decriminalised homosexual acts between men.

The display is a series of extracts from the novel, taking in cruising on Dean Street, taking coffee at Lyons, dropping by jazz clubs off Tottenham Court Road, offering a portrait of Leda’s gay working-class Romany life in a Soho of the 1950s and 60s.

Laid out as a sideways coffee table, the extracts from the book are dotted amongst commentaries about the life of the author, Mark Hyatt. The origins of the book are hard to pin down. They’ve worked out that it was probably written in the mid 1960s, and that the novel is set over a fortnight in the early 1960s. Hyatt would have written it when he was in his early 20s.

One of the commentators in the exhibition suggests that had the novel been published in the author’s lifetime, it could have been remembered as one of the great working-class literature of the time. However, it’s been passed down as a lost work, a time capsule of 1960s Soho.

The exhibition is on the ground floor of Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road until Thursday 9th March 2023. It’s open when the shop is open.

The exhibition was curated by Luke Roberts, who lectures in modern poetry at King’s College London and edited Peninsula Press’s edition of Love, Leda.

Copies of Love, Leda by Mark Hyatt are exclusively available at Foyles for the first five weeks of the exhibition.


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