Saturday, 21 May 2011

PUSH-UPS: Cathi Unsworth

So, what you pushing right now?

Bad Penny Blues, on Serpent’s Tail

What’s the hook?

A story based on a real, unsolved crime and some real people, who lived and worked on the streets of Ladbroke Grove and Soho between 1959-65. It’s a tale of prostitutes, Pop Art, swinging detectives and Spiritualism in a post-war, pre-Swinging London.

And why’s that floating your boat?

The central story – the case of the fiend the press dubbed Jack the Stripper, who murdered eight women within these years and then disappeared off the face of the earth – has never been officially solved. A new book purporting to reveal his identity has just been published, Who Was Jack the Stripper by Neil Milkins, the latest in a fairly long line. The women who were murdered led lives that linked the high and mighty to clandestine lowlife worlds, creating Venn diagrams within the cliques of culture, showbiz, racketeering, politics and the police, which I explore in the parallel universe of my book. Milkins is convinced that he has found the real Jack, but I personally do not think we will ever know the truth.

When did you turn to crime?

As a child I devoured Sherlock Holmes and the shadows and fog of Victorian London. As an adult I met Derek Raymond in the shadowy fug of the Coach and Horses in London and was never the same again.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?

Just good books, from whatever era and however you want to call them. I have been reading a bunch of books from the Thirties recently that feel as fresh and vital as if they had just been minted.

And, what’s blown you away lately?

From out of the past, They Drive By Night by James Curtis and Wide Boys Don’t Work by Robert Westerby – see above – both on London Books. From the near future, Big Machine by Victor LaValle, another winner from the ever reliable No Exit Press.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?

In my dreams, Bad Penny Blues directed by Bryan Forbes, shot entirely in black-and-white, except for the séance scenes which would be in Francis Bacon Vision, with the young Albert Finney as Pete, the young Julie Christie as Jenny, Dudley Sutton as Stanley Coulter (a role he has played before) and a score by Barry Adamson.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?

Indie/Paper.

Shout us a website worth visiting …

www.archive.org – an entire world of free-to-view, out-of copyright movie classics. My top discoveries so far – The Sadist by James Landis and The Intruder (aka Shame and I Hate Your Guts) by Roger Corman. The former is a fantastically claustrophobic take on the Charlie Starkweather/Caril Ann Fugate murders with brilliant cinematography, redolent of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! The latter is William Shatner’s finest hour and the only film Corman ever lost money on – a mirror held too close to the face of America.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …

I hate talking about myself.