By Philip Baillie
LONDON (Reuters) - Stroll the grimy backstreets of Dickensian London and experience for yourself the sights and sounds which inspired one of the greatest writers in English literature.
Computer tablet users can now travel to the darker side of London as Charles Dickens knew it, with an interactive novel-cum-app launched on Friday by the Museum of London that is the next best thing to having your own time machine.
The graphic novel, a creative combination of text, graphics and narration by "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" actor Mark Strong, transports the reader back to 1862 with an overlay on Google maps, depicting the streets as they were in the Victorian era.
"It is fascinating to discover quite how brutal some of Dickens' descriptions of London actually were," narrator Strong said.
"Usually we associate his writing with vivid caricature and lively character comedy, but to delve into the world of his darker observations is to be taken on a compelling journey through the seamier side of Victorian London," he added.
The app, seen by Reuters ahead of the official launch, contains a series of short stories, an old map of London, complete with interactive media, with which readers can interact, bringing the stories to life.
The main novella featured are taken from "Sketches by Boz," with bonus material of illustrated extracts from famous works such as "Bleak House" and "Oliver Twist."
The launch of the app coincides with the opening of an exhibition at the Museum of London which will run from Friday December 9 June 2012.
The exhibition boasts a wide selection of objects used by or associated with Dickens including a bound original manuscript of "Great Expectations" and portraits from London's V&A Museum.
"Dickens is the first author to describe the modern city of the 19th century and its profound impact on society and, in particular, on ordinary people," Alex Werner, Head of History Collections at the Museum of London.
"His writings remain relevant especially for the rapidly developing mega-cities around the world today, which face many of the problems and challenges that impacted on Victorian London 150 years ago."
Episodes called "Dickens: Dark London" will be published monthly throughout the run of the exhibition to echo how Dickens released his writings. The app will be available free of charge from December 9. Each subsequent episode will be available to download from Apple's iTunes for 1.49 pounds ($2.33).
The stories are illustrated by David Foldvari and the app was developed by Brother and Sisters creative agency.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)