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Cathi Unsworth
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message 1: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
I keep coming across Cathi Unsworth's name all over the place. I've also read two of her books - The Singer and Bad Penny Blues - and both are well worth reading.



What makes her Hamiltonian-esque, for me, is her evocation of London. Both books, but especially Bad Penny Blues are wonderful at summoning a discernible, distinct and convincing London vibe.

I've got Weirdo on my pile of books to read and hope to get to it really soon. She's worth celebrating - so let's celebrate her right here.



'The root of all noir is the gulf of empathy between a man and a woman. I continue to explore this'


message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod


'The root of all noir is the gulf of empathy between a man and a woman. I continue to explore this'

Cathi Unsworth: women and noir

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman, giving all your love to just one man – especially when he's a middle-aged detective with a drink problem, never at home, perpetually walking the mean streets and getting in with a bad crowd. You need to end this one-sided relationship, but he's the one putting food on the table and to walk out is to risk destitution. Such is the dilemma of the woman who wants to write noir.

I blame Agatha Christie. She and the WI of so-called Golden Age detective fiction – Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey – still have us clinched in the corset of their creation. All of these women had more interesting real lives than the ones they hammed up for the crowd – cigar-smoking Allingham dabbling in spiritualism, secretive Tey, Christie and her dramatic disappearing act. Tey described her detective novels as her "yearly knitting" and Allingham had similar flippancy towards the books she set in the London she so inaccurately describes. Hercule Poirot, Albert Campion and Lord Peter Wimsey stride through stage-set simulacra of London and the Home Counties, displaying attitudes that Alan Bennett nailed as "snobbery with violence".

In his 1971 study of British crime fiction of the same name, Colin Watson noted that, while Sayers's Wimsey agonises over the right wine to serve with fish, in America, Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op wakes up, fiercely hungover, next to a woman with an icepick through her heart – and can't recall if it was he who stuck it there.

A couple of dames who were contemporaries of Hammett are the antidote to all this – 40s American femmes fatales Dorothy B Hughes and Margaret Millar, the godmothers of noir. Inspired by Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, their works are taut, hardboiled explorations of unravelling minds, set in the dark shadows between the bright lights of the big city. Millar did have a couple of series characters – initially the psychiatrist Paul Prye and later she wrote the Tom Aragon trilogy that tackled flammable issues of immigration and racism. But her main body of work is stand-alone noirs that delve deeply into man's inhumanity to woman and women's inhumanity to each other – and how that relates to contemporary society.

Hughes had success in her time: Nicholas Ray made the classic 1950 film noir In a Lonely Place from her novel, and The Fallen Sparrow and Ride the Pink Horse were also made into movies in the 1940s. Millar had her 1956 Edgar award winning Beast in View adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964. But neither is as celebrated as Christie's firm, nor the male writers that they equalled: Jim Thompson, Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Beast in View is the only novel of Millar's that remains in print. I think this has more to do with publishers than readers.

While many brilliant women have explored gritty, socially relevant terrain since, just about all have a serial character attached, because this is what publishers require. If they aren't detectives, they're forensic pathologists – which means long hours spent in the station and the morgue. These are not places I want to hang out. It is not the investigators, but the victims of crime to whom I want to give the main voices in my novels.

All my books are standalone, and each explores the fates of women trying to get by in a man's world. I have tried to recreate the eras in which they are set as authentically as possible, by immersing them in the popular culture of their times, in particular by embedding soundtracks in their titles and chapter headings – to me, the most evocative time tunnel to memory and place. The root of all noir is the gulf of empathy between a man and a woman, and I continue to explore why this is so, how much bearing on attitudes between the sexes the social and political climate has, and whether it is possible actually to be "born bad". I tend to have a wide cast list, as I want to show the story from as many perspectives as possible, in the hope that I can find a wider understanding by getting closer to what angers and what terrifies me.

There are a couple of writers with whom I feel a kinship in this. Dreda Say Mitchell's books Running Hot and Killer Tune told for the first time the secret history of London from a West Indian perspective, using the city as the central character through which a myriad others move. She writes evocatively about music and pop culture, giving voice to sections of society seldom heard.

Joolz Denby came directly from the music world and the "punk poetry" she pioneered. Noir was a natural evolution for someone immersed in counter-culture and with an ear for those on the fringes. Her debut Stone Baby, set in a Bradford netherworld of punks and transvestites, won the 2000 CWA Debut Dagger; in 2004 she was nominated for the Orange with Billie Morgan, the story of an ex-biker haunted by a decade-old murder.

Both these women exemplify the kind of wide-screen approach that is justly lauded in male writers such as James Ellroy, Jake Arnott and David Peace. But it is extraordinarily difficult to find a publisher willing to take on a woman who wants to write this way about the issues that deeply affect us. Recently, Denby has created her own imprint in order to write the books she wants – her website joolz.net has a wry list of the glowing reviews she received for her latest, Wild Thing, from publishers who nonetheless turned it down. She has a strong enough fanbase to make this work, but what message does it send to aspiring women writers?

Either you try to fit what you really want to say into the Christie corset and accept the compromise that goes with it, or you take a chance with e-books and hope you can raise your voice loud enough to be heard. With so many dedicated bloggers and websites out there, this does start to seem like a more attractive option. But you've got to hunt hard to put food on the table this way.

I owe my career as an author to John Williams at Serpent's Tail, who commissioned Denby's Billie Morgan as well as all of my novels. My first manuscript was rejected by every other editor in the land, most of them women, although a few suggested that if I turned the detective in the story into the lead character, they might change their minds – because then we could do a series. John suggested that, had I submitted under a man's name, I might have tricked a male editor into risking it.



message 3: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Cathi's thirteen favourite albums here at The Quietus...

Echo & The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
Sisters of Mercy - Some Girls Wander By Mistake
Joolz - The Latest Craze
Siouxsie And The Banshees - Ju Ju
Crass - Stations Of The Crass
Spear Of Destiny - The Grapes Of Wrath
Bauhaus - In The Flat Field
The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow
The Cult - Dreamtime
Michael Jackson - Thriller / Madonna - Madonna
Cardiacs - A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
Killing Joke - Revelations
New Model Army - Vengeance


message 4: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Cathi's absolutely one of the best and, happy to say, a very kind and good person. Even if we didn't have good friends in common, I would gladly follow her career.

I can heartily recommend a fantastic book of short stories that Cathi edited, titled 'London Noir,' which features short stories -- all noir, all focused on London -- by writers such as Max DeCharne, Barry Adamson, Patrick McCabe, Desmond Barry, Ken Bruen, and many others. As fun a read as you're likely to find.

Sorry... I promise to dust off my html skills in the very near future!


message 5: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "I can heartily recommend a fantastic book of short stories that Cathi edited, titled 'London Noir"

It's now on the list. Thanks Mark. Didn't realise Barry Adamson wrote stories.

Mark wrote: "I promise to dust off my html skills in the very near future! "

There's really no need!


message 6: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Barry Adamson happens to be quite a good writer, it's just that he hasn't written anywhere near enough for MY liking. I don't know if anyone remembers a magazine out of the UK titled PURR, which only ran for a handful of issues in the mid 1990s. Amongst its issues, it featured a serialized novella by Barry Adamson, titled 'The Big Bamboozle,' which was classic noir sleaze. The magazine also featured lengthy, we;ll-researched articles and interviews with writers such as Derek Raymond and Harry Crews. Perhaps not surprisingly, the magazine's editor was Cathi Unsworth.

It was by pure luck that I found what must've been the only copies that ever made it into a stateside shop, but I still have four issues and still tuck into them on occasion.

But back to Barry, I'd crossed paths with him electronically earlier in the year, and he'd mentioned that he's currently working on a novel. Fingers crossed, as I'm sure it will be something worth looking forward to.


message 7: by Nigeyb (last edited Nov 28, 2013 08:05AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
That's very interesting. Thanks Mark. I saw Barry about a year ago at a tribute to Gil Scott Heron. He was brilliant. I really like his solo work too. He said that he'd just moved to Brighton & Hove, which is where I live. I've yet to see him out and about.

I don't know PURR magazine. I'll keep an eye out for back issues. It sounds well worth reading.

EDIT: I did find a photo of one of the covers....




message 8: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 01, 2013 09:34AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
I'm about a third of the way through my third book by Cathi Unsworth. After The Singer and Bad Penny Blues, I'm now on...



Weirdo

...in common with the other two books, it's unquestionably a page turner. This time we're in Norfolk, and - based on my occasional visits - she's evoking that slightly creepy and menacing vibe. The town she has set the story seems to be based on Great Yarmouth, which is a classic English Victorian seaside resort that is now tawdry and deprived.


message 9: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Here's a few photos I took in Great Yarmouth in 2012...









message 10: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Your photos are brilliant! As someone who has never been there, I can only guess that they're quite evocative. They very much remind me of Coney Island here in NYC, only Coney Island is now undergoing a massive sanitising and neutering at the hands of corporate American dollars, which is a real shame.


message 11: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "Your photos are brilliant!"

Thanks Mark. You're very kind.

Mark wrote: "As someone who has never been there, I can only guess that they're quite evocative"

I'd say so, they definitely give a flavour of the faded grandeur and tawdriness. And, fittingly, it was a wet and windy day.

Mark wrote: "They very much remind me of Coney Island here in NYC..."

In my head Coney Island has a bit more glamour - though I'm sure shares a lot of the same characteristics. I've never been there, though have seen a few photos of it during the glory years of the '20s and '30s, and then obviously seen a few cinematic scenes shot there in Woody Allen films and, perhaps most famously, the climactic scene of The Warriors (a personal favourite and one I've seen about ten times over the years).

Mark wrote: "...Coney Island is now undergoing a massive sanitising and neutering at the hands of corporate American dollars, which is a real shame. "

Really? I didn't know. Is that for people to live there? Or trying to re-establish it as a resort or destination?

Most thriving cities have lost, or are losing, their bohemian element. The process of decline-cheap rents attracting artists etc.-area developing a cachet-gentrification is pretty well established now.


message 12: by David (new)

David | 860 comments Ah, the faded splendour of Victorian and Edwardian seaside resorts...

We almost make a point of visiting at least one during our annual holiday when travelling to parts of the UK as yet unexplored by us.

In recent years, we've levered in fleeting visits to Scarborough, Llandudno, Withernsea, Bridlington, Hornsea and Skegness. All still busy yet extremely run-down and almost commercially homogenised like our town centres, but in the most garish and lowest common denominator way. It's very sad.

In a former job, I spent quite some time in Great Yarmouth, a place that should be dear to my heart with its strong David Copperfield connection. Yet the memory of it I have taken away is that there are few sadder sites than a fairground closed for winter.


message 13: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
David wrote: "Ah, the faded splendour of Victorian and Edwardian seaside resorts. We almost make a point of visiting at least one during our annual holiday when travelling to parts of the UK as yet unexplored by us. "

Yes indeed. Two women I met on a photography course do this occasional blog that you might enjoy...

The Lost Promenade: Starting with the pieces around the edges

David wrote: "In recent years, we've levered in fleeting visits to Scarborough, Llandudno, Withernsea, Bridlington, Hornsea and Skegness. All still busy yet extremely run-down and almost commercially homogenised like our town centres, but in the most garish and lowest common denominator way. It's very sad. "

Of those I've only done Scarborough - which I really enjoyed. At Scarborough, the stunning and elegant Grand Hotel, which looks amazing from a distance, actually turns out to be run by Butlins and, to use your phrase, "in the most garish and lowest common denominator" way.

That said, I have enjoyed visits to Butlins Bognor Regis, Butlins Minehead and Pontins Camber Sands, over the last few years (though admittedly for music events and a friend's birthday).

Our True Intent is all for Your Delight.

David wrote: "In a former job, I spent quite some time in Great Yarmouth, a place that should be dear to my heart with its strong David Copperfield connection. "

Ah yes. Of course.

David wrote: "Yet the memory of it I have taken away is that there are few sadder sites than a fairground closed for winter. "

Amen to that brother.


message 14: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
I've got less than a hundred pages to go..




Weirdo

...and I think Cathi Unsworth has produced a book that is even more page-turner-y than The Singer and Bad Penny Blues. Very tense indeed. More once I've finished.


message 15: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Finished!

This is the third book I have read by Cathi Unsworth and Weirdo is even more page-turner-y than The Singer and Bad Penny Blues. I raced through the second half of the book as the story became more tense and exciting.

In common with both The Singer and Bad Penny Blues, Cathi Unsworth excels at creating a strong sense of place. In the case of Weirdo, this is the Norfolk seaside resort Great Yarmouth (here called Ernemouth). There are two interlinked narrative threads running concurrently, one set in 1983, and the other in 2003.

In common with a lot of Victorian and Edwardian English seaside resorts, Great Yarmouth is a tawdry, deprived and slightly unsettling place. This atmosphere is perfectly evoked, along with a bit of local history. The less you know about the actual story, the better, suffice it to say that the tale revolves around a horrific murder and a reinvestigation following new DNA evidence.

Some of the narrative takes place at the local school, and the music and fashions of the early 80s are perfectly evoked, along with the dynamics at the school and the different families.

Ostensibly this is a crime novel, however - and in common with the best genre fiction - there is a lot more going on here than just a thrilling story. It's also an exploration of an era, of local politics, of corruption, Norfolk, alienation, magic, evil, youth culture, fashion, and I still haven't covered it all. 4/5


message 16: by David (new)

David | 860 comments Great Yarmouth also features in Kerry Hudson's delightfully-titled and enjoyable debut novel Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Kerry was originally domiciled in Aberdeen, where I live, so I reviewed it for Aberdeen Voice here:

http://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/09/aber...

Goodreads features her too:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/...


message 17: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
David wrote: "Great Yarmouth also features in Kerry Hudson's delightfully-titled and enjoyable debut novel Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma."

Thanks David. What a fine title for a book.

David wrote: "I reviewed it for Aberdeen Voice."

Splendid review too. Thanks again. I'll be keeping an eye out for Kerry Hudson.

Back to Weirdo, I agree with The Independent's review:

The greatest strength of Cathi Unsworth's crime writing to date has derived from her ability to evoke a specific time and place with an intense and visceral skill. Weirdo, her fourth novel, is her finest work yet in that respect, and the fact that it is attached to the most deft and intricate piece of plotting of her career makes it an outstanding addition to the British crime-writing scene.

and

Unsworth's ability to render the period so vividly makes for an immersive reading experience, and there can scarcely be a better writer of this sort of stuff in the land.

Spot on, eh? Read the whole of The Independent's review here.


message 18: by David (new)

David | 860 comments Thanks, Nigey. I've priced Cathi's books on Kindle and will download and devour as soon as time allows. Anything with 'blues' in the title is like catnip to me.

Bad Penny Blues was the Humphrey Lyttleton hit on which The Beatles based Lady Madonna, if I recall correctly.


message 19: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
David wrote: "Anything with 'blues' in the title is like catnip to me. "

That made me laugh out loud David.

The London-centric setting to Bad Penny Blues makes it my favourite Cathi Unsworth book, but all three that I've read are very compelling.

David wrote: "Bad Penny Blues was the Humphrey Lyttleton hit on which The Beatles based Lady Madonna, if I recall correctly."

Top intel David. Two for the price of one. I'm impressed.


message 20: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Unquestionable similarity...

Humphrey Lyttelton "Bad Penny Blues"

A jaunty little number too. I love Humphrey's introduction.. "...and then fell back exhausted...". Wonderful.


message 21: by David (new)

David | 860 comments Inspired by this and needing cheered up as England's bowlers continue to struggle in Adelaide, I have ordered five Cathi Unsworth books from e-Bay. All for about 12 quid, which is crazy.

Now to arrange some festive holidays from work and set up a cosy spot to do them justice.

Thanks for the tips, people. This is what the internet was invented for.


message 22: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
David wrote: "This is what the internet was invented for."

Yes indeed. I hope you enjoy your foray into the world of Ms Unsworth, please let us know how you get on David.


message 23: by Nigeyb (last edited Jul 01, 2015 08:13AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Cathi’s back….




Without the Moon by Cathi Unsworth

Synopsis:

Night after night Londoners live against a backdrop of the hum of enemy airplanes in the London night sky and the constant bombs destroying landmarks and people’s homes. Each morning residents of this stoic city awaken thankful they are still alive to see the bleak day, made bleaker by the newly destroyed houses and craters that decorate the London landscape.

One February night a killer takes advantage of the chaos and the blacked out streets. Come the morning there is an even more hideous discovery than finding out a neighbour did not live to see the morning. A woman’s body is found strangled and parts of her body violated inside an air-raid shelter in Marylebone, something she would not have needed as the Luftwaffe were conspicuous by their absence the night before. She doesn’t have the look of a lady of the night, a prostitute but a woman of means who has fallen on hard times.

In rapid succession a number of other women are found butchered – but these were women who lived by illicit means, who gave men company for a good price. As the body count mounts, DCI Greenaway is determined to bring this beast who stalks in the dark to a swift meeting with the hangman.

Then another murder of a prostitute is committed on the newly built Waterloo Bridge, but Greenaway has the man he feels in his bones has committed the murders in custody, so who has committed this new crime?

Review:

‘Without the Moon’ is based on two separate true criminal investigations that took place within a two week period in February 1942. Although both cases are based on fact, Unsworth herself says these are to be read as though enacted out in a parallel universe. What brings Unsworth’s portrait of 1942 London to life is the use of real people who were well-known during those turbulent years; Miss Moyes of the Christian Spiritualist Greater World Association, Helen Duncan (aka the Blitz Witch) who would be incarcerated during the remaining war years for witchcraft, Hannen Swaffer the journalist who knew everybody’s business and Olive Bracewell who squandered her fortune in her fight to abolish the death penalty. Along with Margaret McArthur who was the real victim dumped over the side of Waterloo Bridge it all heightens the sense of reality to Unsworth’s work of fiction.

Not only does she do justice to those who are based on real people, but Unsworth is especially compassionate to those working girls that fall victim to this crazed killer. She lifts a veil to show the lengths these desperate women would do to raise a few pennies to keep their heads above water, but which would ultimately lead to their deaths. Another fascinating facet was the rise of Spiritualism as people embraced this practice, desperate to communicate with lost ones to ease their broken hearts and assuage their guilt for being alive.

I was enraptured by Unsworth’s unswerving eye for accuracy. Not only does she display a community that linked arms in defiance of their German enemy, but she unflinchingly holds up a mirror to the ugly side of London, the enemy within that took advantage of the blackouts to slither and ooze along the dark streets like a malevolent, breathing creature to complete its business whether it be prostitution, black market goods or even murder. I was mesmerised by Unsworth’s prose, she transported me back so that each scene felt as though I were present; I could feel the smoke of the houses burning around my nostrils, I could taste the dust from bombed out houses at the back of my throat.

When you crack the spine of this woman’s books, you never know what to expect which makes the unexpected exciting. As with all her books, there is an accompanying soundtrack with the chapter headings Jazz song titles from that time which adds another layer of authenticity.

Unsworth is a chameleon of a writer which allows her to travel wherever or whenever she wishes which brings a freshness to each story. To my mind she is the 21st Century love child of du Maurier and Barbara Vine.

There is no cosy ending to this sad tale as Unsworth allows events to take their natural course. I have heard that Greenaway (a hybrid of Greeno who brought the real Blackout Ripper to justice) will be back in her next novel. I can’t wait to be back in 1940’s London and again feel the fog drifting lazily around my legs as Unsworth plunges me back in time. ‘Without the Moon’ is a fascinating and exceptionally well-written novel that will have air-raid sirens ringing in your ears whilst reading it!

More here including questionnaire...
http://www.crimesquad.com/author-mont...




message 24: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Many thanks for posting that, Nige. I pre-ordered my copy a few weeks ago... something to look forward to.

Cathi has also written an introduction to the new edition of Arthur La Bern's 'It Always Rains On Sunday,' which was heroically brought back into print last month by London Books Classics. My copy turned up just the other day. From the publisher's website:

"Set over a single day in 1939, It Always Rains On Sunday captures the East End of London shortly before the start of the Second World War. The book is centred around the residents of Coronet Grove, its focus the Sandigate family. People go about their lives, heading to the local church and pub, while those looking for excitement are drawn to the bright lights of Whitechapel. Rose – a former barmaid in The Two Compasses – is married to George Sandigate, twenty years her senior, the thrill of her time with villain Tommy Swann firmly in the past. Church bells ring as small-time crooks plot in the pub, a newspaper headline telling Rose that Swann has escaped from Dartmoor.

It Always Rains On Sunday is the atmospheric debut novel of Arthur La Bern and features a large, colourful cast of characters. Dreams and reality clash as arguments rage, gangsters lurk, madness simmers, violence is threatened. Sex and death hang heavy in the air. Described as a predecessor to Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, the film adaptation was a great success and It Always Rains On Sunday remains a classic of British cinema. The book and its author were likewise lauded, and La Bern would go on to write a series of largely London-based, working-class gems."


message 25: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
^ Thanks Mark - added to the list

My copy of Cathi's new book is ordered too


message 26: by David (new)

David | 860 comments She'll sell at least 3, then, as I'll be buying too. Thanks for the heads-up on It Always Rains On Sunday, Mark - it sounds right up my Old Kent Road, and no mistake, guv.


message 27: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments A few friends with battered old copies of It Always Rains On Sunday have assured me that it's well worth the cost of admission.

I've also been strongly advised to scoop up his follow up, which was titled Night Darkens The Streets, but I haven't been able to find a copy that won't mean irresponsibly misdirecting a sizable chunk of my rent-money. Anyone with a spare copy and a generally altruistic nature knows where to find me...


message 28: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Without the Moon is out today (9th July 2015) in the UK and US on Kindle


message 29: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Here's a bit more to add... Ms Unsworth on Arthur La Bern...

http://www.crimesquad.com/classic-cri...

As well as this suave do, for anyone finding themselves with nothing to do in London tomorrow eve...

https://www.genesiscinema.co.uk/films...


message 30: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
^ Thanks Mark - splendid


message 31: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Cathi posted this link on Facebook. This story has eerie parallels to the Waterloo Bridge man from WTM. Cathi's heart nearly stopped for a minute reading this:


http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/...


message 32: by Nigeyb (new)


message 33: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments I'm presently working my way through London Blues, by Anthony Frewin, and can enthusiastically recommend it to anyone with even a slight fondness for the works of Cathi Unsworth. In short, it's a brilliant, nasty, razor-sharp slice of Soho Noir, that also sits nicely alongside the London Trilogy of Colin MacInnes, as well as Ted Lewis at his very finest.

From the publisher...

"The chance discovery of a thirty-year-old blue movie leads back to the film's maker, Tim Purdom, and the London of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Purdom was a pioneer of the black-and-white British porno film and a figure on the periphery of the Profumo sex scandal. He directed nine films ... but who was directing him and what was their hidden agenda? And where is Tim now? London Blues explicitly and unremittingly details the hidden world of Soho vice and London's demi-monde at the time when the grey 1950s were giving way to the 'swinging' sixties. It is a venture into the secret history of our time - a provocative and totally original novel."

Secondhand copies are going for as little as £0.01 on Amazon UK. Can't get cheaper than that.

I read another of Frewin's novels a few years ago, titled Scorpian Rising, which I remember enjoying quite a lot. Interestingly, Frewin worked as assistant film director to Stanley Kubrick for over twenty years, so there's no lack of bona fides there.


message 34: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Thanks Mark - sounds brilliant. I'm off to get a copy.


message 35: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments There'll be no regrets, I promise!


message 36: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Your recommendations always deliver Mark. I'm eternally grateful.

Best of all in this instance, London Blues by Anthony Frewin is in my library. Huzzah!


message 37: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments In that case, I stand corrected. Turns out you can get it cheaper than £0.01...

You've much to look forward to, Nige!


message 38: by CQM (new)

CQM | 218 comments Old CQM-come-lately as I am I've missed all this chat of Cathi Unsworth and Faded (Seaside) Glamour https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR32O... great song if you don't know it.
But this is really what I meant to say https://www.faber.co.uk/blog/cathi-un...
Clearly I'll have to give her a fair crack after reading that.


message 39: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 12, 2017 07:17AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Thanks CQM. Yep, as you can see, there's a lot of love for Cathi round these parts. Her championing of Gerard K is but a fraction of her appeal.

Faded seaside glamour (and plain faded glamour) is a minor obsession (and one that's recently been augmented by a new found love for Lidos - but that's a story for another day) and which, in my mind at least, also informs my love for Patrick H.

Digressing even further I realised the other day that I adore submerging myself in the nostalgia of, variously the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, despite no first hand experience - except childhood memories of the 60s and teenage ones of the 70s. So, for example, the world depicted in Barry Levinson's Baltimore films (Diner, Tin Men etc) is far more attractive and appealing than present day reality.

All of which is a long winded way of saying thanks for the Animals That Swim song. I'd never heard of them before and that's a lovely song that taps into the self same reservoir of feelings for a past I never knew, despite a strong emotional connection.

Now tell me, should I splash some cash on "Faded Glamour - The Best of Animals That Swim"?


message 40: by CQM (new)

CQM | 218 comments Apart from my lack of Cathi Unsworth knowledge (which I hope to rectify soon) I have to agree with you about everything there. My excuse is old films on BBC2 which led to old books which led me to where I am now.
You should indeed splash out on the best of, it's brilliant.


message 41: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments CQM wrote: "Old CQM-come-lately as I am I've missed all this chat of Cathi Unsworth and Faded (Seaside) Glamour ..."

Here's wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy 1998.


message 42: by CQM (new)

CQM | 218 comments Mark wrote: "CQM wrote: "Old CQM-come-lately as I am I've missed all this chat of Cathi Unsworth and Faded (Seaside) Glamour ..."

Here's wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy 1998."


1990's racing ahead a little aren't we?


message 43: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Don't look now, but it appears a new one's coming from Cathi Unsworth...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/That-Black-M...


message 44: by Nigeyb (last edited Sep 03, 2017 10:06PM) (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Great news. Thanks Mark.


8 March 2018 - geddit in yer diary

'That Old Black Magic' by Cathi Unsworth

April 1943: four boys playing in Hagley Woods, Essex make a gruesome discovery. Inside an enormous elm tree, there is the body of a woman, her mouth stuffed with a length of cloth. As the case goes cold, mysterious graffiti starts going up across the Midlands: 'Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?'

To Ross Spooner, a police officer working undercover for spiritualist magazine Two Worlds, the messages hold a sinister meaning. He's been on the track of a German spy ring who have left a trail of black magic and mayhem across England, and this latest murder bears all the hallmarks of an ancient ritual.

At the same time, Spooner is investigating the case of Helen Duncan, a medium whose messages from the spirit world contain highly classified information. As the establishment joins ranks against Duncan, Spooner must face demons from his own past, uncover the spies hiding beneath the fabric of wartime society - and confront those who suspect that he, too, may not be all he seems ...




Here's Cathi, choosing an obscure musical track, which is related to the new book...

'The Castleford Ladies Magic Circle' by Jake Thackray.

I got into Jake a few years back, when there was a fantastic, in-depth BBC documentary about him called “Jake on the Box”, followed by a compilation of him playing his songs live. He had been on the telly a lot when I was a child, but I was too young to have taken him in in those far off days before I had teeth. In middle age, this dark, brooding Yorkshireman appeared as a revelation.

He was possessed of very Gallic looks, and was very keen on the guitar style of Django Reinhardt and the satirical songs of Georges Brassens, which inspired him to adapt his extremely droll wit and spectacular worldplay to writing his own canon of songs about surreal goings-on in Northern towns.

All of them are wonderful but this strikes a particular chord with me at the moment, as I have been writing a lot about magical circles and little old ladies who may not be quite what they appear for my next novel, which is based on two true, witchcraft-related cases during World War II and will be called 'That Old Black Magic'. Jake’s devillish damsels could easily have been among their number, though as hard as I have tried, I have not come up with lines anywhere near as superb as Jake’s here:

“But they don’t waste time with a ouija board or a seance now and again, no/ None of your wittering, twittering, petty poltergeists for them/No, Elizabeth Jones and Lily O’Grady/ And three or four more married ladies/Prefer to be tickled by the whiskery chins of bogey men.”

Now imagine singing that in a droll Yorkshire way while playing guitar as good as Django and looking as cool as Alain Delon in Le Samourai. That’s my definition of a genius.”


http://velvet-sheep.com/song-for-ewe/...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3T8l...
Jake Thackray - The Castleford Ladies Magic Circle (live)


message 45: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "Great news. Thanks Mark.


8 March 2018 - geddit in yer diary

'That Old Black Magic' by Cathi Unsworth."


Thanks to Susan for alerting me to the availability of copies to review over at NetGalley I now have a review copy waiting on my Kindle.

Hurrah!

I'll be starting within a couple of weeks.


message 46: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
I'm about a third of the way through 'That Old Black Magic' by Cathi Unsworth and I'm loving it.

Like most of you, I love a story set in the 30s or 40s and, so far, this one seems to have bags of great period detail and a very original storyline that embraces espionage, fifth columnists, theatric impresarios, folk music, and black magic.

In short, I’m gripped. I’ll keep you posted.


message 47: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Sounds like her streak continues!


message 48: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "I'm about a third of the way through 'That Old Black Magic' by Cathi Unsworth and I'm loving it."

I really liked it...

Click here to read my review

Mark wrote: "Sounds like her streak continues!"

It certainly does. Not quite as good as 'Without the Moon' (2015) but still very enjoyable and brilliantly put together.


message 49: by Mark (new)

Mark Rubenstein | 1384 comments Sounds very encouraging, and well worth looking forward to. The law of averages would probably allow her a dud by now, but it sure sounds like that time ain't come yet!


message 50: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 3931 comments Mod
I'll be very interested in what you make of it Mark, and indeed anyone else who reads it. There are sections which are quite confusing but, by the book's end, and taking it as a whole, I thought it was very effective. There are some brilliant set pieces too.

And, a bit like the Anthony Quinn books, it all felt very authentic.


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