Cathi Unsworth chats to Paul Burke about her classic London novel BAD PENNY BLUES, (2009), just reissued by Strange Attractor Press. This new edition has a introduction on the importance of the novel by Greil Marcus and an illuminating afterword by Cathi.
Cathi tells Paul about her fictional account of the Hammersmith nude murders; 8 women were brutally killed between 1959 and 1965. Corruption, incompetence, and lack of care meant the women the were stigmatised as prostitutes - these crimes were never solved. This is a victim centred novel that really speaks to the tragedy and trauma of these terrible events and then victims experience. In telling their story Cathi explores the lives, last moments and humanity of the women.
Bad Penny Blues is also a portrayal of London in the early 1960s, the thriving and vibrant life of the city, from the art scene to the music scene - from jazz to pop and the dawning of the swinging sixties. Several of the fictional characters draw on real personalities for their inspiration - Pauline Boty, Rachman, Profumo, Joe Meek, Colin McInnes and celebrated spiritualist and charity worker Mrs Moyes.
Cathi discusses her own struggles writing such a traumatic tale. We also hear about the factual accounts of the crime that she drew on, victim blaming and misogyny of the time and what it's like living in Ladbroke Grove, a great community, but discovering this troubled past. Cathi talks about her friendship with Cookie, (otherwise known as author Derek Raymond), a genuine one off.
As an added treat there's a wonderfully atmospheric dramatic reading from the novel by Cathi taken from the Transmissions series which is available on her own website, it's a
collaboration with electronic composer Pete Woodhead, (co-composer on Shaun of the Dead). https://www.cathiunsworth.co.uk/
Paul Burke twitter @paulodaburka
Author photo credit: Julian Ibbotson
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