Impresario Raymond Gubbay’s memoir begins as a portrait of 20th-century London as seen by a boy whose family escaped Nazism on the classic path of emigre European Jews. His father was an accountant who established his own business in Golders Green. The minutiae of their lives is luscious. His paternal grandfather died at 59 from a broken heart at leaving his homeland. Or as Gubbay’s mother put it, “a surfeit of brandy”. 

Raymond Gubbay

Gubbay recounts with delight that his grandmother’s sister Helena was “a singer of some distinction” but the best thing, he thought, was her friend and another artiste, Belle Elmore. She became the murdered wife of the infamous Dr Crippen who stashed her under the floorboards before hotfooting it to America with a younger lover. Gubbay retains a boy’s piquant slant on life – and death. He looks back on “University College Junior School in Hampstead where my brother was already enrolled in the senior school and the headmaster had only recently committed suicide.”

Raymond and school didn’t agree. Three days before...