The Singer, Paperback
4 out of 5 (3 ratings)


The legend goes like this: Vincent Smith met bandmates Stevie Mullin and Lynton Powell at a Sex Pistols concert, where he tried to kiss Sid Vicious? guitar and got a bloody nose. Together they formed Blood Simple, and for a while they made a lot of noise, a bit of money and caused a sensation wherever they went.

Then Vincent eloped with Sylvana, singer for the ethereal Mood Violet, and it all went wrong.

Six months later Sylvana committed suicide, the band fell apart, and Vincent disappeared.

That was 1981 and twenty years on, journalist Eddie Bracknell hopes the story of Blood Simple will be the making of him.

He?s got a book contract and the right contacts, it?s just that he can?t get the different stories he?s heard to fit together, never mind trying to work out what happened to Vincent.

A compelling crime novel and a very modern fable, The Singer brings the intoxicating days of punk back onstage, with all its noisy creativity and explosive violence.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781846686405



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

The Singer in question is Vincent Smith, charismatic psycho and punk visionary. His band flourished and fought for six years in the late 70s and early 80s, but after an angry break-up Smith fled to Paris and shortly afterwards disappeared. Twenty years later, a young music journalist stumbles on the story and decides that a book on the now-forgotten band has the potential to make his fortune. He starts to track down former band members and hangers-on, but as he investigates the story becomes more and more convoluted, and everyone has a different take on the main characters.The story alternates between the punk days and the investigation, with both parts equally vivid and convincing. The unfolding mystery is very well-structured and drew me in. Highly recommended for anyone who likes dark mysteries.

Review by

Just as they were about to hit the really big time, punk band Blood Truth imploded and their charismatic frontman, Vince Smith, disappeared from the face of the Earth. Almost 25 years later a jounalist, Eddie Bracknell, hears the outline of their story from his photographer friend, Gavin Granger, and decides that time is ripe for a book about what happened. It may be just the thing to turn Eddie's life around and arrest the downturn of his relationship with long-time girlfriend Louise.This book follows two plotlines. The first follows the members of Blood Truth from the creation of the band until its demise. The second is the investigation by Eddie as he meets up with the survivors from the ealier time and tries to find out what really went on and what happened to Vince. The storylines are told in alternate chapters and this works really well. The pacing is almost spot on and you do get a good feel for how things were during both timelines. It's not a pleasant and easy book to read as it features a lot of darker aspects of human nature but is quite gripping with mainly well developed characters throughout.

Review by

David Peace, on the back cover, describes The Singer as "the Great Punk Novel". As a man who is passionate about music, and lived through, and loved, the punk era, this augured very well. The book is firmly based within the UK punk, and post-punk eras, so plenty of real bands and songs feature in the story. Part of the fun of the book, for those steeped in the musical history of the era, is trying to work out who Cathi Unsworth modelled some of the fictional characters and bands on. For example there's a photographer who appears to be a combination of Kevin Cummings and Anton Corbijn, and one of the main bands draws heavily on 1980s indie favourites The Cocteau Twins, whilst another has elements of The Birthday Party, amongst others. At first The Singer felt enjoyable if a little hackneyed, however as the story progressed, flipping between the early 2000s and the late 1970s/early 1980s, it became progressively more compelling, and by the end I was racing through the book's 450 pages keen to find out how it all ended.A strength of the book is the range of diverse and distinctive characters, all of whom, to one degree or another are looking back at the past, many damaged by their personal histories, and bring their own interpretation of what happened and why. Cathi Unsworth evokes the punk era very powerfully and also convincingly places the tale in a range of places which include Camden, Portobello Road, Little Venice, Stoke Newington, Pigalle, Montmartre, and Bairro Alto. I know all of these places and she does a great job of describing each location.Ultimately The Singer is a genre piece, and part of the grand tradition of crime fiction, although that said the book's conclusion owes more to gothic horror. Cathi Unsworth's dark tale convincingly evokes the punk era (and early 2000s) via an exciting, original and unexpected story. After I'd finished I reflected on some of the more implausible aspects of the story, and how some of the writing felt rushed, but to dwell on that is to downplay the book's many strengths. This was a great read, my first book by Cathi Unsworth, and not my last. I will be reading more very soon. 4/5

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