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The Penwith Peninsula in Cornwall is where the land ends. In The Swordfish and the Star Gavin Knight takes us into this huddle of grey roofs at the edge of the sea at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
He catches the stories of a whole community, but especially those still working this last frontier: the Cornish fishermen. These are the dreamers and fighters who every day prepare for battle with the vast grey Atlantic. Cornwall and its seas are brought to life, mixing drinking and drugs and sea spray, moonlit beaches and shattering storms, myth and urban myth. The result is an arresting tapestry of a place we thought we knew; the precarious reality of life in Cornwall today emerges from behind our idyllic holiday snaps and picture postcards. Even the quaint fishermen's pubs on the quay at Newlyn, including the Swordfish and its neighbour the Star, turn out to be places where squalls can blow up, and down again, in an instant.
Based on immersive research and rich with the voices of a cast of remarkable characters, this is an eye-opening, dramatic, poignant account of life on Britain's most dangerous stretch of coast.
Gavin Knight's first book, Hood Rat, about gun and gang crime in the UK's cities, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the Crime Writer's Association Non-fiction Dagger in 2012. To research it, he spent two years with criminals, frontline police units and gang members from the inner cities of Britain. His work has appeared in publications including The Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Prospect, Newsweek, New Statesman and Esquire; and he has appeared on BBC, CNN, ITN, Channel Four News and Sky News. This is his second book.
"An alternative perspective, telling the stories of the fishermen who work on this treacherous stretch of coast, tales gathered over two years of interviews, many conducted in the Swordfish and Star of the title"
– Tom Robbins, Financial Times, Books of the Year
"A terrific new book about a hard and dangerous way of life"
– Esquire, Book of the Year
"Knight has gone in search of old smells and danger and found them in spades. There are extraordinarily evocative stories here, of the mad bravado of scarred, de-fingered fishermen and the stoicism of their women [...] As a cross-section of west Cornish lives, a celebration of brave eccentricity and a prose illustration of the way those lives overlap and interrelate, The Swordfish and the Star takes some beating"
– Patrick Gale, Guardian
"Knight recounts fascinating detail, but also shows a novelist's skill in painting a vivid picture of real Cornwall and real Cornish people: Shane Meadows meets The Perfect Storm"
"[Knight] is as adept with words as his hero Nutty Noah the Cadgwith ring-netter is with a shoal of pilchards [...] exhilarating"
– Tom Fort, Literary Review