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The Singer

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  26 reviews
The legend goes like this: Vincent Smith met bandmates Stevie Mullin and Lynton Powell at a Sex Pistols concert, where he tried to kiss Sid Vicious? guitar and got a bloody nose. Together they formed Blood Simple, and for a while they made a lot of noise, a bit of money and caused a sensation wherever they went. Then Vincent eloped with Sylvana, singer for the ethereal Moo ...more
Paperback, 462 pages
Published June 5th 2008 by Serpent's Tail (first published February 1st 2007)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  117 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Cathi Unsworth’s The Singer is an epic of the punk era mixed with a detective story and a little bit of the gothic (with a conclusion straight out of Poe and Wilde). In many ways this is not a crime story (or doesn’t feel like one for most of the story) but a story of the dreamers and the damned (pun intended as that band features quite a bit in the book) of the punk generation, but Unsworth always writes like a crime novelist focusing on a street level view of history filled with grit and grime ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
David Peace, on the back cover, describes The Singer as "the Great Punk Novel". As a man who is passionate about music, and lived through, and loved, the punk era, this augured very well.

The book is firmly based within the UK punk, and post-punk eras, so plenty of real bands and songs feature in the story. Part of the fun of the book, for those steeped in the musical history of the era, is trying to work out who Cathi Unsworth modelled some of the fictional characters and bands on. For example
Ian Mapp
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They do suggest that you write about what you know.

And Cathi Unsword - ex music journalist - knows her late seventies, early 80s music.

This book is simply superb. Best I've read for a long time and will be my book of 2016, I'm sure.

A split time narrative shows a music journalist in 2001 investigating the short career of a fictional punk band, Blood Truth, and their enigmatic front man, Vince.

There's a lot of fun to be had as fact and fiction merge. The real bands bring back memories but part of
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-top-ten
The Singer is a gripping belter of a novel. Told in two timelines it follows the story of Blood Truth and Mood Violet - two bands to come out of the post punk scene of the late 70s early 80s.

One thread tells the stories of these bands from their formation through their respective successes, TOTP appearances, tours and their inevitable messy ends. The other thread is set in the early 2000s as aspiring writer/journalist Eddie Bracknell starts to write a book about the band with the ultimate aim of
Allyson Shaw
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I enjoyed being swept up in the dark drama of this book. It evokes this particular time and place so well-- the intersection of dying days of punk and early goth. I found the two narratives to be a bit odd, especially the first person-- hence 4 stars. I wished somehow that could have been handled more elegantly but ultimately I gobbled this up.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Currently reading the Kindle preview of The Singer and I'm enjoying it. It's a pretty good punk crime novel about the dissolution of rock and roll dreams and the quiet disappearance of a popular punk singer following an explosive run at the height of The 1977 Roxy Club scene. Unsworth writes in a tight, tough prose style that fits the action inside. Give this one a tumble.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A vast improvement on her debut novel - this has real depth and moved along at pace. Some great characters drawn from the UK 80s underground music scene. A good few seem very familiar as they appear to drawn from the pages of Sounds / NME.
Clare Trowell
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this book - really loved it. A rollicking read but so well written with great characters. One for all you Punk, Goth and New Wave fans out there!
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh man what a story! the noir! the punk! the music! vince! donna! sylvana! eddie! what a tangle web Unsworth weaved. Set between modern times and the early 1980s this tells the story of two up & coming bands in the early English punk scene and Eddie a modern day music journalist pinning for a scene he was never part off. Eddie is trying to write about the mysterious disappearance of Vince a charismatic singer of Blood Truth along the way he discovers a whole lot of truth and then some. The e ...more
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally reviewed as part of a 5 book round up.

Last but not least on the holiday reading is The
Singer By Cathi Unsworth who I bought it from at
the Suarez Seance at the Horse Hospital a few
months ago a night celebrating Derek Raymond
this is a great London Rock and Roll Mystery
roll of a book that was hard to put down and
follows the story of two fictional bands Blood
Truth and Mood Violet who its claimed within
this book are in Blood Truths case the founding
fathers of Goth and come not fro
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably more of a 4.5 (a few typos and some odd POV shifts), but I'm rounding up because man, I thought this was great. It's the story of a journalist who gets obsessed with an early British punk band whose lead singer disappeared off the face of the earth 20 years ago. The journalist decides to write a book about the band and the search for the singer, and the book switches back and forth between the first-person POV of the journalist and an occasionally strange third-person POV flashback, fro ...more
Kathy Adams
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The characters were brought to life in this story. I felt transported to the late seventies punk rock movement in Britain. The dialogue was spot on, and I found myself regurgitating British phrases in everyday life while reading this novel. I was captivated by the story telling and enjoyed the intriguing back and forth: present searching into the past and past moving towards the future to move the story along. The ending derailed the whole story and I feel compelled to reread the entire book as ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought it started off decently but then it hit a long patch where I felt like I was better off abandoning the book rather than finishing it.

Then I got to the section about the New Year's party and everything started clicking.

And then...that ending.

The beginning and middle parts really kept this from being the four star book. I'd say 3.5 but still, for a book about punk (post-punk really) it does an admirable job in not embarrassing itself.
Rachel Pollock
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rated solely on how many times it made me miss my bus stop. A mystery/thriller/music history/cultural commentary/story of fan/fame/romantic obsession. A well told story with interesting characters and a great series of revolving points of view held together by a modern day narrator who serves as a great reader surrogate.
the gift
she knows her era and subculture, though the way the plot unfolds is long, slow, dense, with familiar cliches of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, with weird chemistry of the band and always, always, the woman who becomes the focus of their dissolution. and she is the sole sympathetic character. i could have enjoyed it more if only half as long. definitely, a punk ending.
Apr 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Ex-music journo Cathi Unsworth may have written the best crime novel I've read all year with The Singer. It's like Jon Savage's England's Dreaming meets Velvet Goldmine meets Cold Case with a chilling shocker of an ending, and I absolutely could not put it down.
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice noir novel set in Englands punk/goth scene in the late 70's. Being into punk rock it was good reading a crime novel set in an enviroment I already know something about, but I would recommend it to all who like crime fiction.
Jun 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me till the end to really figure out the mystery.
Sophie Carsenat
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am blown away by Cathi Unsworth. Dark, deeply authentic, intense crimewriting. I've just ordered all her books and cannot wait to read them!
May 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, top-ten-2009
best novel i've read with music (punk rock) as the axis of the story.
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: old punks
This book is utterly brilliant and I will definitely be buying her other books.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not even close to being as good as Unsworth's Weirdo book. Sort of disappointed since I loved Weirdo.
More like 3.5, it was a good plot and I enjoyed it but a lot of it wasn't well written and the language was kinda repetitive.
John Treanor
Interesting depiction of the punk rock and post-punk era, with some noir thrown in. A good read with a great surprise ending.
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed her book, Weirdo, but found this one somewhat tedious despite a pretty good story. Set in punk era.
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Peter De Backer
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Cathi Unsworth moved to Ladbroke Grove in 1987 and has stayed there ever since. She began a career in rock writing with Sounds and Melody Maker, before co-editing the arts journal Purr and then Bizarre magazine. Her first novel, The Not Knowing, was published by Serpent's Tail in August 2005.
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