Sep 18, 2020
Cathi Unsworth’s Bad Penny Blues is republished this autumn in a new edition from Strange Attractor Press. This fictionalized investigation into the Jack the Stripper murders – 1960s London’s biggest unsolved case – comes with a new Introduction from Greil Marcus and an afterword in which the author details just how haunting the process of recreating the book’s milieu became.
The landscape of 1959 London, was a fertile mix of writers, musicians, politicos and pop artists who were joined by slumming aristocrats trawling for thrills in the jazz clubs of Westbourne Grove. All of human life – including a vicious and misogynist serial killer, who managed to outwit the largest manhunt in Metropolitan police history.
The fiend left his prey naked, with injuries that baffled investigating officers. Dubbed ‘Jack the Stripper’ by a press eager to inflate the lurid connotations of his victims’ occupations. Cathi says it was the rage she felt for the victims' lives – already nasty and brutish enough that were cut short and buried under mounds of prurient dirt that compelled her to write their stories. Her aim was to give them back the voices they were denied and let the readers see what the life of a so-called "Good Time Girl" in post-War, pre-Swinging London was like.
Originally written in 2009, the book was described by David Peace as “the English Black Dahlia” and was selected as a favorite lockdown read by listeners of BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms Show this summer.