Cathi Unsworth’s The Not Knowing and connections to the music and work of certain suave gents from back in the day…
Well, while we’re on the subject of Tindersticks and Stuart Staples (I may well say “while we’re on the subject of…” a fair few times around these parts as much of the world and work I’m wandering about, via and through are interconnected in curious and intriguing ways)…
…here’s the first novel by Ms Cathi Unsworth. In terms of genre, I suppose the nearest area I would point you towards is a form of contemporary London crime noir…
… but I think in part what fascinates me about it and drew me to it was that it was also a document of a particular time in old London town, just before Britpop. A time when Gallon Drunk and a new breed of one-over-the-eight, slicked back, sharp-suited rock’n'roll was around and indeed appearing in elements of the music press (something Ms Unsworth had a hand in but more of that another time) and occasionally even the visual airwaves.
This was a music and style that in part looked back towards a reimagined 1950s / early 1960s past but wasn’t a bobby socks recreation but a new set of work unto itself, that at its peak could be the soundtrack to a rip-roaring ride of recklessness through the heart of town.
The Tindersticks connection? The title was “borrowed” from the title of one of their songs on their first album.
Actually, while we’re on the subject of The Not Knowing, I’ve always meant to ask Ms Unsworth if that’s her on the cover as the lady in question has a sartorial style not dissimilar to her own.
Around that time of rock’n'roll re-imagining in which the book is set, Ms Unsworth was also heavily involved with a magazine called Purr. Something of a rarity now but if Harry Crews, The Cramps, Derek Raymond, Barry Adamson and James Ellroy float your boat, then this is well worth adding to your ballast.
Actually, thinking about it, invite those folks around for some cultural nourishment and you’re not a million miles away from some of the roots of The Not Knowing.