Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Leins

Skull Meat - Tom Leins - jpegPDB: Can you pitch SKULL MEAT in 25 words or less?

 

A deranged seaside noir about a PI who gets dragged into a violent running battle with an obese sex trafficker called Swollen Roland. In Paignton!

 

PDB: Who are the great British writers?

 

Good question – albeit one I’m not best equipped to answer, given the heavy American bias in my recreational reading history…

 

Instead, I’ll give you a run-down of my own great British influences…

 

J.G. Ballard. This probably sounds strange to anyone remotely familiar with my fiction, but Ballard is my number one. I picked up my first Ballard book (Cocaine Nights) in a Vietnamese travel agent (in Vietnam, not in this country), and it blew me away (and kept me distracted on a terrifying mountaintop coach ride). Aspects of Ballard’s work has always seemed scarily prescient, and now we are very firmly in a post-Ballard Britain. The insidious way in which he rolls out his stories is a joy to behold, and – while we obviously won’t get the chance – I would have loved to have seen his interpretation of contemporary Britain, and indeed his nightmarish projection of our future.

 

Iain Sinclair. My first encounter with Sinclair was in an otherwise unmemorable football themed short story collection (I forget the title). The story later appeared in his excellent Slow Chocolate Autopsy book, which the main character, Norton, is trapped in a particular space – London’s city limits – but not in time. Anyway, the story was so good it prompted me to pick up White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, and a number of other Sinclair books. I’m fascinated by his take on Psychogeography, and my Paignton Noir stories are an attempt at a localised spin on the concept.

 

Derek Raymond. I picked up a greasy hardback copy of his posthumous book ‘Not Till the Red Fog Rises’ in a 30p sale at the old Paignton Library in Victoria Park half a lifetime ago. I had no prior knowledge of the writer, or his work, and the book was grubby and intense – much like the old Paignton Library building – in a way that most British crime fiction simply isn’t. It led me to investigate his arresting ‘Factory’ series, and his compelling life-story was an additional hook. Fascinating man, fascinating life, fascinating books.

 

David Peace. The Red Riding Quartet must surely rank as the bleakest most absorbing series in British crime fiction. Nasty, unflinching and thoroughly immersive, it is easy to see why Peace is often likened to James Ellroy. These superb, confrontational books offer a grim, unrelenting depiction of Northern England during the Yorkshire Ripper case, and Peace mines this dark episode for a complex, terrific story.

 

PDB: Which books do you think would make great films or TV series?

 

Ballard’s High-Rise (directed by Ben Wheatley) was probably my favourite movie of last year, and I hope its success encourages other directors to tackle his work. There is so much excellent Ballard material to work with, but I would like to see Cocaine Nights turned into a mini-series, populated exclusively with the revolving cast of middle-aged, middle-class actors that ITV stuffs its programmes with. To my mind, that would make it even more subversive. Obviously, ITV wouldn’t touch the story with a barge pole, but I can dream!

 

PDB: What’s on the cards?

 

A collection of Paignton Noir short stories, MEAT BUBBLES (& OTHER STORIES), should be available through Amazon later this summer.

 

My Paignton Gothic story ‘Here Comes That Weird Chill’ will be included in the MORE BIZARRO THAN BIZARRO anthology, edited by Vincenzo Bilof, later this year.

 

Also, coming in September, is the first issue of THE BLOOD RED EXPERIMENT, a serialized collection of neo-Giallo stories, edited by our mutual acquaintances Craig Douglas and Jason Michel. I’m involved, alongside a selection of other literary reprobates. Expect blood, dismemberment and cliffhangers galore. Suffice to say, my story, DIDN’T BLEED RED, takes place in the already disturbing Paignton Noir universe. Honestly, the last thing this town needs is a deranged sex-killer in a motorcycle helmet running amok with a meat cleaver, but that’s exactly what it is going to get…!

 

PDB: Anything else?

Thanks for having me back, Paul – always a pleasure!TomLeins-2017-b&w

 

Bio:  Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Near to the Knuckle, Pulp Metal Magazine and Spelk. His novelette SKULL MEAT is available for Kindle, via Amazon. Get your pound of flesh at https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/