Recommended Read: Bad Penny Blues by Cathi Unsworth

At the start of the Swinging Sixties, a serial killer nicknamed Jack The Stripper stalked te streets of West London. In Bad Penny Blues, Cathi Unsworth smartly weaves together fact and fiction as she tells the stories of Stella – a young fashion- designer who is haunted by visons of the dead women – and PC Peter Bradley, a policeman who is investigation the killings.

First published in 2010 by Serpents Tail, Bad Penny Blues as been republished by Strange Attractor Press and now includes an introduction from no less than Greil Marcus as well as The Ghosts Of Ladbroke Grove, a revealing afterword from Cathi Unsworth.

Bad Penny Blues remains a cracking yarn with a great sense of time and place and is, of course, highly recommended.

Recommended Read: The Not Knowing by Cathi Unsworth

Published in 2005, Cathi Unsworth’s The Not Knowing was her first novel. It is set in London in the early ’90s and what a great slice of London life it is. Diane Kemp is a journalist working for the trendy Lux magazine. When an uber-hip British film director goes missing she is dragged into the investigation. Meanwhile, a killer stalks the city.

The Not Knowing is a cracking murder mystery with a great sense of time and place and is a hell of a read.

The Not Knowing

Short, Sharp Interview: Dominic Milne

A of C CPDB: What’s going on now?

Right now is kind of mayhem. Just had the release of the Eddie Kane trilogy, so trying to push what feels like a million buttons at once. Fantastic stuff though – really exhilarating. ‘Act of Contrition’ is already beginning to turn some heads. This feels in some ways like the culmination of so many years hard work, which of course it isn’t at all – it’s just the beginning.

PDB: How did you research this book?

I had what I imagine was every crime-writers idea of a gift horse of a head start. In the early 2000s I spent several years working in HMP Wormwood Scrubs, which gave me an absolute mountain of inspiration and potential storylines. I was working directly with inmates, getting to know them, hearing their stories and experiences, and I can honestly confirm that truth is a hell of a lot stranger than fiction – if anything, as a writer I’m having to moderate the things I’ve heard to make them plausible. The beauty is I’ve only scratched the surface so far. There’s plenty more in the tank for the future.

A of M CPDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

I’m deeply proud of ‘Act of Contrition’ and ‘Act of Madness’, but ironically it was actually Act of Vengeance that kicked this series all off, despite now being the third in the series chronologically. Act Of Vengeance got me in the doors of a few major publishers a few years ago, meetings that led to a lot of excitement, but ultimately no cigar. I think of it as a kind of wayward son, hopefully one who’ll come good in the end.

PDB: What is your favourite film/book/song/TV programme?

Film-wise I love some of the darker noirs of the late forties/early fifties, such as ‘The Prowler’ with Van Heflin, an actor who was also in a top piece of dark cinema called ‘Act of Violence’ (which you won’t be surprised very nearly also became the name of an Eddie Kane book). Top place has to go to ‘The Servant’ though, directed by Joseph Losey, who also made ‘The Prowler’. It’s one of the more bizarre and weirdly dark films I’ve come across. That said, I could probably watch ‘The Wicker Man’ on a loop if pushed.

Favourite book I’ll give to Cathi Unsworth’s ‘The Singer’, which I think is a triumph of punk noir. It helps that it kicks off in Hull, where I grew up. It also reminds me of ‘The Wicker Man’.

Favourite song has got to be ‘No More Heroes’ by the Stranglers. It gets the pulse racing, without really actually meaning, well, anything. But that’s cool. Sums up my early life.

Favourite TV programme goes to ‘The Sopranos’, which could be quite worrying.

A of V CPDB: Is location important to your writing?

Totally and utterly, and I love living where I live in North London for that very reason. The Eddie Kane books are set largely in Hackney and Islington, which are fantastic places in terms of criminal history, dark streets, alleys, pubs full of character and endless storyline possibilities. The most enjoyable part of writing crime novels is getting the feel for places and brainstorming ideas, a great excuse for checking out the less-reputable pubs and bars on the manor. You have to watch your back though. I’ve been mistaken for police a few times by suspicious locals in dodgy haunts, wondering why I’m looking at them then scribbling stuff down. It’s a risky business this writing. People don’t realise the sacrifices we make for their pleasure.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

I can honestly say that so far I barely look at them – but I’m sure I’ll cave sooner or later and become a ridiculous obsessive.

PDB: What’s next?

Plug the books, until I’m unpleasant to be around I guess. I have another novel ready and written, based on one of the characters from ‘Act Of Vengeance’ called Dan Harwood, so that will probably come out later in the year. It’s a stand-alone, but Eddie Kane also makes a crucial cameo. I’m also currently working on the fourth Eddie Kane novel, which involves him stepping heavily on the toes of Turkish mafia in north London. Let’s hope I don’t do the same while I’m researching it.

dominicsphotos00Bio: Dom Milne was born and raised in Hull, East Yorkshire. He spent many years working as a musician, before moving to London to train and then work professionally as an actor. After a spell working in HMP Wormwood Scrubs in the early 2000s, he began writing and has since written several novels and short stories, including the Pulp Press original, ‘My Bloody Alibi.

March 2015 saw the release of the Eddie Kane trilogy, the first three crime novels in the new series featuring the maverick, Hackney-based detective. The titles, ‘Act Of Contrition’, ‘Act Of Madness‘ and ‘Act Of Vengeance‘ are available now on ebook worldwide.

Recommended Read: British ’60s Cinema by Paul Thompson

brit 60s cinema

Paul Thompson’s BRITISH 60s CINEMA website is a gem. Don’t take my word for it, the great Cathi Unsworth is a fan, too. Here’s  the SP:

This website will celebrate the vitalilty and variety of British cinema in the 1960s (whilst straying back into the 1950s and on into the 1970s, and sometimes just covering interesting British films from any era). In general I have taken the definition of the 1960s from Dominic Sandbrook’s ‘Never had it so good’, which starts the era in 1956, and goes through to summer 1970. In cinematic terms, this is about right – although Room at the Top wasn’t released until 1959, the literary impetus for such films goes back a few years – and the early 1970s films such as A Clockwork Orange, Villain and of course Get Carter feel very different again.

There are articles and pieces on various topics, some obvious (but I think worth including) such as the New Wave of the early 60s (completely redone March 2013) and some not so obvious, such as pages on the influence of 60s films on The Smiths and the film club I ran in Abu Dhabi.  The website is now branching out more into other areas of British cinema, such as the page on the ‘spiv cycle’ of the 1940s or a new piece on the filn adaptations of the so-called low-life writing in the 1930s. Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Charlie Bubbles

There is a feature which I will add to as often as I can on ‘unsung films’ such as The Small World of Sammy Lee, The System, Deep End, Charlie Bubbles and The Boys, pages on recommended books and DVDs – and a section on adaptations of not-so-well-known books into more famous films such as To Sir, with Love and Get Carter.’

Recommended Reads: Brighton Rock by Graham Greene / Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth

weirdo“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him” From its brilliant opening line, Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (1938) grabs you by the throat and almost strangles you with its intensity. The lives of fanatstically rich characters, such as big hearted Ida Arnold who is investigating Hale’s murder and Pinkie, the psychotic young gangster, intertwine in a gripping novel that is well-deserved of its classic status.

The seaside town of Brighton itself is also one of the book’s strongest characters, as the glitz and grit collide.

Cathi Unsworth‘s marvelously atmospheric Weirdo (2012) also takes place in an English seaside town, the fictitious Ernemouth. Again two sides of the town are contrasted with bright lights hiding dark and dirty corners. A private detective investigates a 20 year old murder and unearths some nasty secrets. Weirdo cleverly takes place in two time periods (2003 and 1983), is populated with great charters and has a vividly, strong sense of time and place.

What The Hell Is Brit Grit ?


America may well be the  official home of pulp and noir but the United Kingdom, long  perceived as the land of True Brit Grit Guest Blog: It’s a Case of Having Good Genes! By Graham Smithtame Dame Agatha style cozies and stuck-up, Latin quoting police detectives, also has a grubby underbelly which has produced plenty of gritty crime writing. And there is a new wave of Brit Grit writers leaving their bloodstained footprints across this septic isle, too.
The godfathers of the new  Brit Grit could well be Ted Lewis, Derek Raymond and Mark Timlin with Jake Arnott, J J Connolly, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid as part of the next wave.
But in the last few years, more and more BRIT GRIT writers have been creeping out of the woodwork, through the cracks in the pavement, out of the dark and dingy alleyways.
Scottish crime writer Tony Black, for example, is the author of four novels featuring punch drunk, booze addled  Gus Dury, an ex  journalist turned reluctant Private Investigator whose shoulder has more chips than Harry Ramsden. The books  see Gus sniff around the back streets of Edinburgh and follow the rancid trail of crime and corruption right to to the top. They’re gruelling, intense and exciting journeys – not without moments of humour and tenderness. You may feel as if you’d like to give Gus a smack every few pages but the pit bull proves himself again and again.

Gus Dury may be in the gutter but he’s still looking at the stars, albeit through the bottom of a bottle of whisky. And it’s down to Black’s great writing that when you you finish one of his novels you feel battered and bruised  but can’t wait for the next round.

Pulp mastermind Otto Penzler  famously said that noir is about losers and not private investigators. Mr Penzler has probably never read any Tony Black – or fellow Scot Ray Banks, then. Banks’ Cal Inness quartet is the real deal. Inness is true loser. He’s a screw up. A lush. A mess. A man so far in denial he’s in the Suez. In each  brilliant tale he bangs his head against as many brick walls as he can. And he feels the pain. And so do we. The quartet is as bitter and dark as an Irish coffee and leads to a shocking yet inevitable conclusion.

And there’s more: There’s Alan Guthrie who gave us the best novel of 2009 with SLAMMER; Nick Quantrill ‘Broken Dreams’ which looks at a Northern English town that has had it’s fair shair of kickings but still isn’t out for the count; Bad Penny Blues is Cathi Unsworth’s  ambitious look at  the many facets of London in the late fifties and early sixies; Comic genius Charlie William’s and his nightclub bouncer hero Royston Blake help you see life in a way that Paulo Coelho never will!
There are BRIT GRIT publishers too:  Newcastle’s Byker Books publish Industrial Strength Fiction such as the Radgepacket – Tales from the Inner Cities anthologies; Brighton based Pulp Press publish short, punchy novellas with the slogan ‘Turn Off Your T.V. and discover fiction like it used to be.’

And there’s even more …
There’s Howard Linskey, Martin Stanley, Jack Strange, Paul Heatley, Mrtina Cole,  Ben Cheetham, Christopher Black, Martyn Waites,Allen Miles, Danny Hogan, Chris Leek, Gary Dobbs,  Gareth Spark, Sheila Quigley, Ian Ayris, UV Ray, Danny King,  Col Bury, Mark Billingham,  Andrew Bell, Alan Griffiths (whose blog is aptly called BRIT GRIT), Julie Lewthwaite, Steve Mosby, Darren Sant, McDroll, Richard Godwin, Colin Graham, Neil White, Andy Rivers . . . and more! There’s even comic BRIT GRIT from Donna Moore and Christopher Brookmyre, BRIT GRIT thrillers from Matt Hilton and surrealist BRIT GRIT from Jason Michel!

And now, of course, we have True Brit Grit- A Charity Anthology edited by Luca Veste and me, with an introduction from Brit Grit mastermind Maxim Jakubowski. True Brit Grit is a hard-hitting, gritty, crime anthology  from 45 British writers. All coming together to produce an anthology, benefiting two charities.

Oh, and I even have a weekly column- Brit Grit Alley over at Out Of The Gutter Online!

“The BRIT GRIT mob is coming to kick down your door with hobnailed boots.
Kitchen-sink noir; petty-thief-louts; lives of quiet desperation; sharp,
blood-stained slices of life; booze-sodden brawls from the bottom of the barrel
and comedy that’s as black as it’s bitter–this is BRIT GRIT!”

(This is adapted from a piece that first appeared in the program for the 2010 Noircon and was later republished at Pulp Metal Magazine)


Short, Sharp Interview : Cathi Unsworth

PDB: Can you pitch your latest publication, “Weirdo”, in 25 words or less?

CU: Teenage trauma in a Norfolk seaside resort. Female transgression, witchcraft and witch hunts, corrupt establishment and the power of friendship.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

CU: The novels “How I Killed Margaret Thatcher” by Anthony Cartwright, “The House of Rumour” by Jake Arnott and “The Blood of Crows” by Caro Ramsay have all had me gripped to the page recently.

I’m currently re-reading “Brighton Rock” and marvelling yet again at Graham Greene’s perfection in prose. The soundtrack to this has been “Blues Funeral” by the Mark Lanegan Band, Big Sexy Noise, We Are Birds of Paradise and a new recording of a live classic by The Cesarians known as “The Fuk Off Song” – it’s very cathartic.

On TV, the BBC’s London Season and the archive they put online of programmes about the city – in particular the Man Alive documentary about a day in the life of Hyde Park. I am delighted by the return of “The Thick of It” – Armando Ianucci is a genius. And the last film that really blew my tiny mind was “Iron Sky”.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

CU: But of course. Books are like friends to me, I lean on them, take inspiration from them and aspire to try and write as well as the authors that take me far from wherever it is I’m sitting and into the world they have created. Without constant stimulation from other authors, past and present, I really don’t see how your own work can continue to progress.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

CU: Yes, I have had no success at any of these ventures yet, but I have dabbled and learned a lot from doing so. The idea of making a book into something 3D, with people actually living the roles and the soundtrack you hear in your head as you are writing coming alive, is a really thrilling prospect.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

CU: I try and make every book as authentic as possible, and I love researching – so a lot. “Bad Penny Blues” took the most, as that was an act of time travel to an era before I was born, and at every juncture I had to stop and think: Would they really say this? Was this even invented? It took a long time to write, and it wasn’t a comfortable experience at all, but after immersing myself in that world for so long, I now feel that I actually somehow was in London between 1959-65. I always think the best thing about being a writer is that you can be a traveller in both time and space.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

CU: I have a website and use Facebook to put up events, but I am personally deeply wary of social media. My instinct is that it is counterproductive to a writer to have so much distraction. If I had the luxury of being able to write full time, maybe I would think differently, but I doubt it. There was a brilliant article in The Guardian recently about how destructive it actually is to a writer’s time and psyche – the author estimated that it takes up about 80 per cent of the time you have to write, and that all the evidence points to the fact that you would be more successful flogging your wares on a street corner than trying to do it online. I would far rather actually be writing!

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

CU: I am putting together outline ideas for a new novel – I am going back down the time tunnel again, so in the words of Captain Oates, I could be some time…