March 10th, 2010


Reading - Bad Penny Blues

This is a book by former music journalist Cathi Unsworth and is a fictionalised account of the Jack the Stripper murders in London in the late 50s and early 60s. These are seen from the point of view of a decent copper and a young clothing designer, fresh out of art school, but married and with the sixth sense. Set in Soho and Notting Hill, this book explores the tensions of the art and vice worlds.

It seems from other reviews (such as this, this and this), that this is a wonderful example of Noir writing, evoking place, menace and with a core conflict that brings loss to all those it touches.

Except I didn't really get any of that. I thought the prose was flabby, the first proper chapter starts "Dawn crept steathily", it's cliché ridden, the characters are wooden and there is no particular sense of place nor menace. The ending is pretty upbeat too. Perhaps I shouldn't have read it after Derek Raymond, even if Unsworth was a friend of his and inspired by him to write.

I finished the book but only because I was stuck in the dentist's waiting room and wanted to blot out the sound of the drilling. It didn't help much in that regard either.