In Bright Particular Stars, David McKie examines the impact of twenty-six remarkable British eccentrics on twenty-six unremarkable British locations. From Broadway in the Cotswolds, where the Victorian bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps nurtured dreams of possessing every book in the world, to Kilwinning in Scotland, where in 1839 the Earl of Eglinton mounted a tournament that was Renaissance in its extravagance and disastrous in its execution, McKie leads us to places transformed, inspired and sometimes scandalized by the obsessional endeavours of visionary mavericks.
Some of McKie's eccentrics, such as Mary Macarthur, who helped the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath win the right to a fair wage in 1910, were good to the point of saintliness; others, including the composer Peter Heseltine, who in the 1920s set net curtains twitching by his hard drinking and naked motorbike riding, rather less so. But together their fascinating stories illuminate some of the most secret and most extraordinary byways of our national and local history.
In Bright Particular Stars quiet, unassuming streetscapes become sites of eccentric and uproarious sites of action. The triumphs and failures of the visionaries who thus transformed them – recaptured here by David McKie in vivid and beguiling fashion – have each, in their own way, helped shape our island's rich and chequered history.