What you've got to understand is that here in Southall, everyone's up to something.
In 2006, Lilian Pizzichini swaps life on dry land for a narrowboat on the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal. The Adam Bonny, moored between Newlocks and Shackleton Estates, is to be the place she can learn more about her extensive working-class London family - and the place where she will become pulled into a strange underbelly of drugs, vagrant neighbours and criminals.
Lilian always found it easier to observe than join in. Abandoned by everyone around her, by the time she was fourteen she had developed a taste for Pernod and black. Speed allowed her to talk to boys, but she spent most of her time with her great-aunt Dolly, who had no regard for convention, sang songs and urinated on the street. Born into the slums of Lisson Grove, Dolly spoke like Eliza Doolittle when no-one was listening. With her, Lilian felt the bonds of mischief, gambling, madness and song.
As the sad lives of her ancestors sprawl and take root in her head, Lilian drinks endless brandy and cokes in the Brickmaker's Arms. Pete - ex-burglar and dealer - brings her heroin, skunk and bags of pills and, united by a desire to lose consciousness on a regular basis, becomes her boyfriend. He tells her about the Somalis and Punjabis and their rival gangs, about the honour killings happening under their bridges and they watch as the prostitutes and pimps run the streets.
But addiction has a relentless appetite and Lilian soon realises that, just like the Adam Bonny, she is sinking and must, with her help of her ancestors, try to pull herself back.
Lilian Pizzichini has worked for the Literary Review, the Times Literary Supplement and as writer-in-residence at a prison. Her first book, Dead Men's Wages, won the 2002 Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-fiction. Her second, The Blue Hour: A Portrait of Jean Rhys, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim. Lilian Pizzichini lives in London.