Set in 1912, Bedford Park is not just a London suburb: it is a crucible for enlightenment and modernity inhabited by people who wish to better themselves - and those who should know better. It is a singular place, architecturally sidestepping the modern whilst encouraging those with new ideas to take up residence.
Into this mix sails Cal Kidd from America. In a coffee-house he makes the acquaintance of Binks, a man whose occupation in the City is vague but he seems to know everybody. And so Cal meets real-life characters like Maud Gonne and Frank Harris, while Ford Madox Ford, W.B. Yeats and Joseph Conrad appear also. Then Binks is gruesomely murdered, and after never really having to deal with anything in his life, Cal the observer now has to act.
The spirit of the age is what makes Bedford Park so evocative, a time when everyone tries to invoke the future but often looks to the past to achieve it. Among the host of vivid characters, the greatest is London itself, a city in a constant state of flux whose centre is journalism. All the detail makes the place exotic and exciting - the marathon at the Olympics in 1908, a ride on the Flip Flap in White City, news being chalked up on dock walls for those who couldn't afford papers, a woman peeling potatoes in the Biosphere cinema in Bishopsgate. London has to comment instantly upon itself or be commented upon, always new and important.