Cathi Unsworth is a novelist, writer and editor who lives and works in London. She began her career on the legendary music weekly Sounds at the age of 19 and has worked as a writer and editor for many other music, film and arts magazines since, including Bizarre, Melody Maker, Mojo, Uncut, Volume and Deadline.
Her first novel THE NOT KNOWING was published in 2005, followed the next year with the award-winning short story compendium LONDON NOIR, which she edited, and in 2007 with the punk noir novel THE SINGER. Her third novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, inspired by the unsolved 'Jack the Stripper' murders of 1959-65 was published in 2010 to great critical acclaim. Her 2012 book WEIRDO, a tale of teenage trauma and female transgression set on the Norfolk coast was shortlisted in many 'best of the year' lists including the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and named Book of the Year 2012 by Loud and Quiet Magazine and crimesquad.com
Her latest work Without The Moon, based on two true crimes that occurred during the dark days of February 1942, may well be her best yet.
As well as working on her books Cathi has appeared on TV and radio including reviewing for BBC2's The Culture Show. She regularly takes part in live events, has given screen talks at The Barbican in London and performed spoken word gigs organised by Tight Lip and The Sohemian Society.
All of Cathi's books are published by and available from Serpent's Tail.
Photo: Julian Ibbitson - wwwibitsonphotography.com
New Book! Without The Moon out now
An Evening Standard Book of the Year
A Crime Squad Book of the Year
The Times Crime Book of the Month
"Few writers can match her extraordinary capacity to capture the atmosphere of louche, bygone London and the mood of it's people. In Without The Moon she tackles the blitzed city in 1942 with the same unerring touch…" Marcel Berlins, The Times Crime Book of The Month
"Cathi Unsworth has long been one of the most intriguing crime writers in the country… Using real-life material Unsworth has created a brilliant, swirling maelstrom of a story. The main strength in Unsworth’s writing has always been her terrific evocation of time and place, and she really plays to that strength here. The vision of London after nightfall is amazing, an intermingling of prostitutes, spivs, pimps, villains, cops, communists, soldiers, journalists and psychics, hanging out in dark alleyways, dodgy bars, seedy hotels." – Doug Johnstone, The Independent
‘Unsworth leaves us reeling in the desperation of London under siege, and Without the Moon is historical crime fiction written with dark lustre and an eye for authentic period detail.’ – Cameron Woodhead, Sydney Morning Herald
“Brilliant and brave, Without The Moon blends murder and magic to create a vision of London as a spiritual maze. Prostitutes, psychopaths, detectives, villains and psychics move through its corridors, glimpsing heaven and hell in an atmosphere that is so charged it can almost be touched. Fact and fiction link as justice is demanded. The best work yet from a genuine, original talent.” – John King, author of The Football Factory and Human Punk
London 1942: Detective Chief Inspector Ted Greenaway is not happy to be working as a murder detective. The former second-in-command of the Flying Squad has previously enjoyed a career in charge of gang-busting on the racetracks, his East End roots and penchant for gambling giving him a deeper insight into the clans who rule each territory of London. But now there’s a War on. Greenaway has already put Bethnal Green gang boss Sammy Lehmann behind bars, the Italian mob have been interned as enemy aliens and the Sport of Kings itself is subject to rationing. With his younger colleagues volunteering to serve their country, Greenaway has no choice but to accept his new position.
Just as well: for in February 1942 a serial killer emerges into the London night, stalking for victims amongst the working girls in the West End and Paddington. His murderous mutilations are enough to shock Greenaway and his most hard-bitten colleagues and the speed at which he cuts his swathe through the city is unprecedented. But Greenaway’s strength is that he can always draw upon unorthodox allies. Information comes his way from veteran Fleet Street journalist Hannen Swaffer, whose penchant for spiritualism and showbiz has gained him a loyal audience amongst the superstitious London brasses; and a fortune-telling prostitute’s maid known as The Duchess, with whom Greenaway has a long history, some of which he would prefer not to be reminded of. If their stories are true, then the man Greenaway seeks is a member of the British armed forces.
Greenaway’s chase for the sex maniac killer plays out in an afterhours world of séance circles, salons and speakeasies, where wide boys and working girls, spooks and mediums, communists and journalists find common ground in a blacked-out, bomb-ravaged city. And even as he draws closer to the maniac he pursues, a second killer in Allied uniform steps into the frame, baptising the newly built Waterloo Bridge in the blood of another woman. Greenaway’s investigations draw him back into the unfinished business of his own past and the potentially compromising agendas of those who have come to his aid – favours that could bring some dangerous payback…
"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." – Chris Simmons, editor Crimesquad.com, Book of the Month
"A classic noir novel in every way." – The Lady
"Describing Cathi Unsworth as a crime writer feels limiting, there’s so much more to say…" – Emerald Street
"A beautifully crafted analogue world, that crackles with tension, atmosphere and human sentiment. Without The Moon is the kind of book you find yourself reading slowly because you don’t want to reach the end" – Bryony Hegarty, Louder Than War
"…a stunningly atmospheric thriller stuffed to bursting with characters only a city under siege (in more ways than one) could throw up and only a writer as good as Cathi Unsworth could control…Without The Moon is a tour-de-force and would certainly get my vote - not that I have one - in any of the myriad awards for book of the year." – Mike Ripley, Shots
“It practically out-Hamiltons’ Patrick Hamilton in its sense of menace and place, conducting a kind of séance with that bombed-out but brassy London of the war-torn 1940s. On each page you can practically smell the cheap scent, powder, Brilliantine and black-market whisky.” – Travis Elborough, author of London Bridge in America and The Long Player Goodbye
WITHOUT THE MOON IS OUT NOW ON SERPENT'S TAIL
Forthcoming events: Cathi Unsworth
in conversation with Paul Willetts
at A Wartime Tea Party at The Golden Age of Crime Festival, 6 March 2016
3pm Park Inn Palace Hotel,
Cathi and acclaimed author and biographer Paul Willetts (Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia, Members Only, North Soho 999) will be appearing together at a series of events this autumn to talk about Without The Moon and Mr Willetts' forthcoming Rendezvous at the Russian Tearooms, the espionage epic that has been described as "The greatest spy story of World War II". They'll be opening the Time Tunnel back to the 1940s at the following venues:
Sunday 6 March 2016 A Wartime Tea Party 3pm at the Golden Age of Crime Festival, Park Inn Palace Hotel, Southend-on-Sea, Essex...
More details to follow...
Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms is an engrossing narrative non-fiction WW2 espionage thriller. This dramatic yet little-known saga, replete with telephone taps, kidnapping, and the police surveillance, centres on the furtive escapades of Tyler Kent, a handsome, womanising 28-year-old Ivy League graduate, who doubles as a US Embassy code clerk and Soviet agent.
Against the backdrop of London high society during the so-called Phoney War, Kent’s life intersects with the lives of the book’s two other memorably flamboyant protagonists. One of those is Maxwell Knight, an urbane, endearingly eccentric MI5 spyhunter. The other is Anna Wolkoff, a White Russian fashion designer and Nazi spy whose outfits are worn by the Duchess of Windsor and whose parents are friends of the British royal family. Wolkoff belongs to a fascist secret society called the Right Club, which aims to overthrow the British government. Her romantic entanglement with Tyler Kent gives her access to a secret correspondence between President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, a correspondence that has the potential to transform the outcome of the war.
An exhilarating and action-packed true story set in World War Two, perfect for fans of Ben McIntyre’s Agent Zigzag.
‘Researched with almost breathtaking depth and ingenuity, this is a compelling story of swirling political and personal cross-currents at the time of our gravest national danger.’ David Kynaston
For more about Paul Willetts, please visit his website HERE
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY by Arthur La Bern
London Books re-release of a classic London novel with an introduction by CATHI UNSWORTH
Born into the Islington streets run by Darby Sabini and his gang, Arthur was a Fleet Street crime reporter and war correspondent who flew with the Fleet Air Arm in the Pacific during WWII. Many of his novels were adapted for the screen, including GOODBYE PICCADILLY, FAREWELL LEICESTER SQUARE, which became Alfred Hitchcock's equally notorious FRENZY – which Arthur hated. He lived high on the hog and then fell from that distance, sleeping rough on Brighton beach towards the end of his days. Every experience filtered through to his hauntingly evocative descriptions of wide boys, working girls, hardbitten hacks and the coppers that chase them down, capturing vistas of a lost London and bringing them vividly back to life.
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY will be published on May 25. It is currently exclusively available from the LONDON BOOKS website, price £11.99. You can order a copy and to find out more about other LONDON BOOKS titles, please HERE
Cathi in London Fictions on
Lynne Reid Banks' The L-Shaped Room
18 April 2013.
Cathi chose The L-Shaped Room, discovered while researching her 2010 novel Bad Penny Blues. The book, and Bryan Forbes subsequent movie adaptation, vividly evoke the lost bedsitter land of West London in post-War, pre-swinging London.
From Child of the Jago to Brick Lane, London has always inspired novelists, seeking to present a sense of the city, whether real or imagined. Here, writers and historians take you through some of the captivating novels, past and present which depict London from East End boys to West End girls, bed-sit land to docklands, immigrants to emigrants, encompassing all of the diversity of human life.
The full list of contributors are:
Andrew Whitehead on George Gissing's The Nether World
Andrew Lane on Athur Conan Doyle's The Sign of FourNadia Valman on Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto
Angela V. John on Henry W. Nevinson's Neighbours of Ours
Sarah Wise on Arthur Morrison's A Child of the Jago
Anne Witchard on Thomas Burke's Limehouse Nights
Heather Reyes on Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway
Zoë Fairbairns on Pamela Hansford Johnson's This Bed Thy Centre
Rachel Lichtenstein on Simon Blumenfeld's Jew Boy
John King on John Sommerfield's May Day
John Lucas on Patrick Hamilston's Hangover Square
Susan Alice Fischer on Betty Miller's Farewell Leicester Square
Jane Miller on Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day
Andy Croft on Jack Lindsay's Rising Tide
Bill Schwarz on Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners
Jerry White on Colin MacInnes's Absolute Beginners
Cathi Unsworth on Lynne Reid Banks's The L-Shaped Room
Ken Worpole on Alexander Baron's The Lowlife
Susie Thomas on Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia
Gregory Woods on Neil Bartlett's Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
Lisa Gee on Zadie Smith's White Teeth
Valentine Cunningham on Chris Petit's The Hard Shoulder
Courttia Newland on Iain Banks's Dead Air
Sanchita Islam on Monica Ali's Brick Lane
Jon Day on John Lanchester's Capital
Philippa Thomas on Zadie Smith's NW
For more information, please go HERE
To order from Amazon, please go HERE
Fiction Uncovered FM podcast now available
Tapeworm release: Cathi & Pete Woodhead present Johnny Remember Me
The story spun out of research for Bad Penny Blues, in particular the life and times of Joe Meek and the Number One hit single Johnny Remember Me that he created for television star John Leyton. A song that is so evocative of ghosts and curses that it lent itself perfectly to the creation of a little urban myth.
With fabulosa original sleeve art by the legendary Sav X, Johnny Remember Me is a limited edition release of 250, priced at £3.50 plus £2 P&P. Full details from the Tapeworm website, linked below.
For more information on the story, please go HERE
To buy the cassette, please go HERE
Cathi Unsworth Reading - 2009 (Photo: Nick Tucker)