> Skip to content

Gavin Knight has caught the stories of the Cornish fishermen – and their difficult, dramatic existence at the end of our land

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.

Praise for Hood Rat
'A gripping novelistic immersion' Louis Theroux
'A must-read' Owen Jones
'Britain's Gomorrah' Independent


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

The Swordfish and the Star gets top rating for its often searing honesty and its portrayal of fallibility in a harsh, unforgiving world... a terrific read... remarkable

Des Hannigan, Western Morning News, Devon

The reading public has become interested in the social anthropology of our relationship with nature and a slew of authors has explored the interdependence of people and the natural world. The best give us a language to read the world around us... This helps explain what's different and admirable about The Swordfish and the Star... Knight does immersive journalism. This account of the lives of the fishing community on both sides of the Penwith Peninsula is driven by personal anecdote... the obsessive, personal tangle with the sea in search of fishy riches, the fortunes made, the lives lost, the courage and recklessness

Will Cohu, Oldie

A hugely refreshing dunk in the ocean ... fascinating

Roger Cox, Scotland on Sunday

A genuine and powerful insight into the lives of people who brave the sea for a living

Choice Magazine

An immersive account... It is an eye-opening, dramatic and poignant account of life on Cornwall’s most dangerous coast and the people who fish it.

Western Morning News

The Swordfish and the Star is a fine, and at times really beautiful, book. It has a tough no-nonsense prose style that I very much admire. A style that entirely fits the lives of the people it is about, people who live tough lives where the land meets the sea at the far end of Cornwall. There are too few books that tell, so respectfully and truthfully, the stories of the men and women that make a living from the land and the sea

James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

This is a marvellous and humane book about Cornwall -- and unusual: a travel book with no 'I' -- rather the traveller as a silent observer and patient listener. It is Cornish life as told by its people -- fishermen, farmers, publicans, singers, brawlers, historians, drunks, old-timers, newcomers and even D H Lawrence and King Arthur

Paul Theroux

Wonderfully evocative, from the title to the last line. Knight has condensed the detailed tales and tragedies from decades of fishing, to produce a real insight into those who brave the sea. Full of brotherhood and triumph, loss and sadness

Matt Lewis, author of Last Man Off

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    May 18, 2017


    256 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    June 2, 2016

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • iBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks