69 books like Bad Penny Blues

By Cathi Unsworth,

Here are 69 books that Bad Penny Blues fans have personally recommended if you like Bad Penny Blues. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Study in Scarlet

David Cairns Author Of The Case of the Wandering Corpse

From my list on 19th century murder, mystery and mayhem.

Why am I passionate about this?

History has always been a captivating adventure for me, a stage to rekindle the echoes of times long past. My journey began amid musty archives in Hobart, where I stumbled upon a handwritten prison record about my wife's feisty ancestor, transported in the 1830s. There and then, I resolved to breathe life into the fading embers of her existence, and after extensive research, I wrote my first novel, a tapestry of historical events intertwined with the resurrection of long-forgotten souls. Since then, I've applied lessons from masters like Conan Doyle to create exciting, atmospheric stories that turn us all into time travelers on an exhilarating voyage.

David's book list on 19th century murder, mystery and mayhem

David Cairns Why did David love this book?

This is the story that introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world.

The plot brings the reader to the dark streets of Victorian London as a cunning murderer is hunted down. Holmes’s unique powers of observation and deduction then set the bar for all subsequent detective stories as his friend, Watson, is etched into your mind as a ‘true blue’ friend whom you would like to call your own. The story is intricate, delving into the human psyche and the nature of justice. It draws you into the period; it has great characters and mystery, intrigue, and unexpected deductive skills.

I make no apologies for incorporating some of this Sherlockian style into my own mysteries, and perhaps there cannot be a greater tribute than that for this timeless classic. 

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Study in Scarlet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet is the literary debut of the world's most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, introduced by Iain Sinclair with notes by Ed Glinert in Penguin Classics.

Convalescing in London after a disastrous experience of war in Afghanistan, Dr John Watson finds himself sharing rooms with his enigmatic new acquaintance, Sherlock Holmes. But their quiet bachelor life at 221B Baker Street is soon interrupted by the grisly discovery of a dead man in a grimy 'ill-omened' house in south-east London, his face contorted by an expression of horror and hatred such as Watson has…


Book cover of The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins

Mike Gerrard Author Of Strip till Dead

From my list on crime set in London.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my freelance career as a travel writer, though I now also write about drinks. While living in London I worked for a while at the men’s magazine, Mayfair, and around that time went out for several months with a woman who was a stripper. I didn’t know that when we met, so judged her by her personality not her profession. One of the magazine’s models was murdered, and one of the staff questioned by police. He was totally innocent. I wanted to write the kind of book I like reading, bringing together those two storylines to create a fictional version of a very real part of London life.

Mike's book list on crime set in London

Mike Gerrard Why did Mike love this book?

I knew the author when I worked for his literary agent in London, and this is a fascinating and frightening look at the London crime world of the Kray Twins. They ruthlessly ruled parts of London, including the East End, and was an essential background re-read when I wrote my own London crime novel. I was trying to show behind the scenes of the world of striptease, but this book is a reminder of what’s behind even that behind-the-scenes world. I used to send a 6-monthly royalty cheque to their mother as their share for co-operating with the book, which is why it’s so authentic.

By John Pearson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Profession of Violence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic, bestselling account of the infamous Kray twins, now a major film, starring Tom Hardy.

Reggie and Ronnie Kray ruled London's gangland during the 60s with a ruthlessness and viciousness that shocks even now. Building an empire of organised crime that has never been matched, the brothers swindled, extorted and terrorised - while enjoying a glittering celebrity status at the heart of the swinging 60s scene, until their downfall and imprisonment for life.


Book cover of The Long Firm

Mike Gerrard Author Of Strip till Dead

From my list on crime set in London.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my freelance career as a travel writer, though I now also write about drinks. While living in London I worked for a while at the men’s magazine, Mayfair, and around that time went out for several months with a woman who was a stripper. I didn’t know that when we met, so judged her by her personality not her profession. One of the magazine’s models was murdered, and one of the staff questioned by police. He was totally innocent. I wanted to write the kind of book I like reading, bringing together those two storylines to create a fictional version of a very real part of London life.

Mike's book list on crime set in London

Mike Gerrard Why did Mike love this book?

This is an obvious follow-on from my first choice, a gritty fictionalised version of the kind of world the Kray Brothers moved in. It features the gangster Harry Starks, who is both a porn king and a sociology graduate, and has one of those great openings that grips you from the start:

"You know the song, don’t you?" “There’s no business like show business.” Harry gets the Ethel Merman intonation just right as he heats up a poker in the gas burner.

How can you not read on, albeit a little nervously?

By Jake Arnott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long Firm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The cult bestseller that launched Jake Arnott as one of the most exciting new voices of the decade - 'A gangster novel every bit as cool, stylish and venomous as the London in which it's set' (Independent on Sunday)

'I'll tell you what happens now,' Harry says, reading my mind. 'You can go now. We're quits. You don't talk to anybody about anything. You've had a taste of what will happen if you do.'

Meet Harry Starks: club owner, racketeer, porn king, sociology graduate and Judy Garland fan. To be in his orbit is to be caught up in the…


Book cover of The Cuckoo's Calling

Maurice Holloway Author Of Steal a Diamond

From my list on detective books with the most memorable protagonist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for writing, and whenever I can, I try to help new writers improve their expertise so that one day they’ll complete their first book. My first book, born from a few-hundred-word short story at my writing group, turned into a three-book thriller series called FAVOURS. Since then, I’ve branched out by publishing a rom/com, a humorous ghost story as well as a standalone thriller. Agatha Christie published her first book as the result of a dare, which proves you can do it if you really want to.

Maurice's book list on detective books with the most memorable protagonist

Maurice Holloway Why did Maurice love this book?

As a multi-genre author, I was interested to see how the creator of a world-famous boy wizard was going to change her name and turn her hand to crime writing. I relished the result: the first outing for a new private investigator, a character called Cormoran Strike.

Known simply as Strike, he is a P.I. with a handicap (aren’t they all?). Not just the common ones; excessive drinking, difficult relationships, and so on, Strike lost half his right leg whilst serving in Afghanistan. Retiring from service, the ex-MP becomes a private investigator. He has few clients, no money, and is scruffy and unkempt because he sleeps in his office. But he does have a motto, "Do the job and do it well."

In social relationships, Strike isn’t a likable character; demanding and sometimes just plain rude. He has lost his last assistant. I warmed to him the more his traits…

By Robert Galbraith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Cuckoo's Calling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Cuckoo's Calling reminds me why I fell in love with crime fiction in the first place' VAL MCDERMID

-----

Now a major BBC drama: The Strike series

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.

Strike is a war veteran - wounded both physically and psychologically - and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the…


Book cover of The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

Sarah Wise Author Of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London

From my list on true crime shoiwng fact is FAR odder than fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

While completing a Master’s degree in Victorian Studies at the University of London, I stumbled across a passing reference to a series of killings in 1831 in East London. I was astonished that I had never heard of these and further research resulted in my first book, The Italian Boy. Three books later I realise now that all my work is an attempt to squeeze out of the archives the less-recorded aspects of the everyday life of ‘marginalised’ people. And I guess that’s why I have selected the true crime books below – they all shine a bright light on previously little-known aspects of our world, and reveal the inter-relationship of victims, criminal, and location of the deed.

Sarah's book list on true crime shoiwng fact is FAR odder than fiction

Sarah Wise Why did Sarah love this book?

Jarossi’s debut features deeply moving vignettes of young women with troubled early lives, who, in the West London of the 1960s, fell into the path of a still-unknown serial killer. He was heartlessly dubbed Jack The Stripper by the national newspapers. Jarossi vividly recreates the tawdry workings of the vice trade – the underbelly of Swinging London. He rightly focuses on the victims – and restores to them the dignity of which their killer (and those who covered the case originally) deprived them.

By Robin Jarossi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and The Who were all performing in the Queensway and Shepherds Bush areas of London in 1964-65.

But in those same areas, during the early hours, a meticulous serial killer was stalking local prostitutes and dumping their naked bodies on the streets.

Seven, possibly eight, women fell victim making this killer more prolific than Jack the Ripper 77 years previously. His grim spree sparked the biggest police manhunt in history.

But why did such a massive hunt fail? And why has such a traumatic case been largely forgotten today?

One detective makes the astonishing new claim…


Book cover of The Crimson Petal and the White

Alex Dolan Author Of The Euthanist

From my list on female protagonists who you hate to root for.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m obsessed with the exploration of what it means to be a human being. We’re coming into an era where we see more characters who aren’t good or evil but both—they possess the potential to save someone from jumping off a bridge one day and beating someone the next. We’re all capable of the greatest acts of kindness and the most abominable atrocities imaginable. I believe we need to be reminded of that fact so that when there comes a time when we can decide whether to hurt or to help someone, we become the better version of ourselves and make the right decision.

Alex's book list on female protagonists who you hate to root for

Alex Dolan Why did Alex love this book?

Michael Faber is one of my favorite writers of all time, and the same author of Under the Skin, another wonderful book with a female protagonist you’ll hate yourself for loving. Faber’s range as a storyteller is incredible, and along with his mastery of horror and science fiction, he shows that he can put together a Victorian epic that is gorgeously written, with a main character, Sugar, who is a complicated character—a sex worker by trade who sometimes makes bad choices but is admirable in how she has to navigate the world of pompous, detestable men to survive. 

By Michel Faber,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Crimson Petal and the White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them . . .'

So begins this irresistible voyage into the dark side of Victorian London. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition and revenge.


Book cover of Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban

Tace Hedrick Author Of Chica Lit: Popular Latina Fiction and Americanization in the Twenty-First Century

From my list on the writing and marketing of chica lit.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a university professor, I often teach popular women’s writing, and I realized that I needed to teach Latinx popular fiction as well. Women’s popular writing in the United States reflects but also shapes the way women see themselves in a global neoliberal world. After I had written an article on class and Chicanx and Latinx fiction, I also realized that class and race are key to thinking about how Latinas/Chicanas both create and follow market trends in an effort to “better” themselves in addition to showing how various Latinas/Chicanas see each other in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender.  

Tace's book list on the writing and marketing of chica lit

Tace Hedrick Why did Tace love this book?

I also write about this book in my work. I again have problems with it, but it gives a kind of slice-of-life snapshot of Cuban life at that moment (around 2005), and especially about jineteras, or “jockeys,” women who supplement their income by going out with wealthy foreigners. Doing research on that book gave me a look at Cuba that was invaluable. And it is sometimes funny. It serves as a kind of coda to my book in that it reproduces many of the rhetorical moves of other chica lit but in a completely different setting. 

By Lisa Wixon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the wildly popular, semi-autobiographical "Havana Honey" series published by Salon.com, Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban is a gritty portrait of one woman's determination to infiltrate modern Cuba and find the father she has never known.

While on her search, privileged American Alysia Briggs ends up broke and alone in Havana. She's then forced to adopt the life of the jineteras -- educated Cuban women who supplement a desperate income by accommodating sex tourists.

With an eye for detail and a razor wit, Lisa Wixon relates Alysia's journey and creates a love song to Cuba, a heartfelt tribute to a…


Book cover of Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England

Cara Hogarth Author Of My Lady of the Whip

From my list on medieval sexuality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Cara Hogarth emigrated from England to Australia as a child, but always wished she hadn’t. So she studied medieval history at university in order to travel back in time and place. Now that she’s bagged a PhD (on Chaucer’s raunchy Wife of Bath), she prefers to write historical fiction in order to truly immerse herself and her readers in the past. She finds academic history a fantastic inspiration for her fiction writing, but is always seeking out historical novels that hit just the right balance between research, humor, and page-turning plot. Warning: her novels can get quite steamy!

Cara's book list on medieval sexuality

Cara Hogarth Why did Cara love this book?

Published by Oxford University Press, Common Women is an academic rather than a popular history of medieval English prostitution, and its author is an expert in medieval sexuality.

I adore the wealth of historical detail founded on original research that Karras presents. It’s a goldmine of inspiration for those of us who write fiction set in medieval England. Where else can you learn about the cross-dressing prostitute John Rykener, the Bishop of Winchester’s brothel empire in Southwark, or discover names like Clarice Clatterballock?

By Ruth Mazo Karras,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Common Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An account of the lives of prostitutes in Medieval England relations, which covers their treatment under the law, and concludes that prostitution was central to the medieval understanding of feminity.


Book cover of Fishnet

M.R. Mackenzie Author Of In the Silence

From my list on crime with amateur detectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

For as long as I’ve enjoyed crime novels, I’ve always been drawn to the figure of the amateur detective. Something about the notion of the every(wo)man, forced to rely on their own wits and limited resources to solve the mystery and outsmart the killer (and sometimes the police!), has always appealed to me far more than that of the professional who does it for a living. When I wrote my first novel, In the Silence, I knew from the word “go” that I wanted to tap into this rich but often-overlooked vein of crime fiction with my own plucky amateur sleuth, determined to right the wrongs of the world.

M.R.'s book list on crime with amateur detectives

M.R. Mackenzie Why did M.R. love this book?

I suspect one of the reasons I enjoy reading (and writing) about amateur detectives is that I’m instinctively drawn to stories of the dispossessed – those without a voice, forced to take matters into their own hands because the proper authorities won’t listen. Kirstin Innes’ debut novel, about a woman investigating the disappearance of her sex worker sister, is not for the fainthearted: a deep dive into a parallel world that foregrounds the voices of the women who inhabit it and challenges widely-held conceptions about them – namely that they’re all poor, pathetic victims in need of rescuing. Innes’ thorough research shines throughout, and the result is a compelling, informative, and thought-provoking novel that avoids the common tropes associated with the “dead hooker” subgenre of crime fiction.

By Kirstin Innes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fishnet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty-year-old Rona Leonard walks out of her sister Fiona's flat and disappears.
Six years on, worn down by a tedious job, child care and the aching absence in her life, Fiona's existence is blown apart by the revelation that, before she disappeared, Rona worked as a prostitute. Determined to uncover the truth, Fiona embarks on a quest to investigate the industry that claimed her sister. Drawn into a complex world, Fiona's life tilts on its axis as she makes shocking discoveries that challenge everything she's ever believed ...
Bittersweet, sensual and rich, Fishnet is a beautifully told story of love…


Book cover of Smonk: Or Widow Town

Alden Bell Author Of The Reapers Are the Angels

From my list on in the tradition of William Faulkner.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I’ve been deeply influenced by Southern literature—especially the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Even though I’m not from the South myself, I am drawn to Southern writers’ immodesty. I believe much of contemporary literature is too timid. It is about the mundane, the everyday.  It does not elevate; instead, it diminishes.  Much of the literature of the South is biblical in its sensibilities.  It is unafraid to deal with the big universal issues with language that is equally big and universal.  It does not pander to modesty or postmodern selfconsciousness. It is audacious. It’s the kind of writing that made me want to write.

Alden's book list on in the tradition of William Faulkner

Alden Bell Why did Alden love this book?

Franklin’s book is one of the key inspirations for my book, The Reapers Are the Angels. Combining a frontier western sensibility with Faulkner’s wicked gothic brutality, Franklin tells an engrossing tale of a young prostitute who finds herself mired in a world of outlaws, perverts, dandies, and murderers. Frantically running back and forth between high comedy and guttered grotesquerie, this story feels like it’s just barely clinging to its own rails—and that sense of dangerous tipping is what feels so thrilling about it. What Franklin inherits from Faulkner is a wide-eyed beguilement with degeneracy—or what Conrad would call a “fascination of the abomination.”

By Tom Franklin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smonk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's 1911 and the townsfolk of Old Texas, Alabama, have had enough. Every Saturday night for a year, E. O. Smonk has been destroying property, killing livestock, seducing women, cheating and beating men, all from behind the twin barrels of his Winchester 45-70 caliber over-and-under rifle. Syphilitic, consumptive, gouty, and goitered—an expert with explosives and knives—Smonk hates horses, goats, and the Irish, and it's high time he was stopped. But capturing old Smonk won't be easy—and putting him on trial could have shocking and disastrous consequences, considering the terrible secret the citizens of Old Texas are hiding.


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