Category Archives: Tom Leins

Stone Me, What A Life! – Tony Hancock

hancock460.jpgThey say that all small boys are influenced by their big brother’s music collection, and while that may well be true of me, I was also influenced by my family’s taste in other forms of entertainment.  Luckily I grew up in a time when television and radio weren’t as youth focused as they are now and I could enjoy the same shows as my parents and siblings, such as Will Hay, Ealing Comedies and Tony Hancock. During the miners’ strikes in the ‘70s there were power cuts. Which meant no telly. Reading comics by candle light and listening to an old transistor radio. Radio 2, usually, since my parents were of that age group. The Navy Lark, Round The Horne and, of course, Hancock.

Tony Hancock – the easiest comedian for charades – and I share the same birthday, May 12th. Whether or not we share the same death day remains to be seen, of course, and let’s just hope we can put that little fact-finding mission on hold for a while, eh?

One of the UK’s major television and radio stars throughout the 1950s and early ‘60s, British actor and comedian Tony Hancock killed himself on 25 June 1968. He overdosed on booze and pills and left a suicide note that said:

‘Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times’

Indeed, Hancock’s eponymous character on radio, on television, and in film, regularly tried his hand at countless activities and endeavours that invariably failed.

One episode – The Bedsitter – teeters dangerously on the precipice of bleak existentialism. The Bedsitter is a one-room set, one-man-show, where Hancock endlessly flips through a Bertrand Russell tome trying to find meaning in life, but fails, of course.

Tony Hancock - The RebelIn the most famous episode of his television show The Blood Donor,  ‘the lad himself’  proudly donates a pint of his particularly rare blood only to end the episode by cutting himself so badly on a breadknife that he needs a transfusion of his own blood. The recording of the television version of The Blood Donor proved to be problematic as Hancock had recently been involved in a car accident and suffered from concussion so that he had to read his lines from autocue.

After the American failure of his film debut The Rebel, Hancock broke with his long time writing team of Galton and Simpson, who were responsible for most of the great writing in Hancock’s shows, as well as ditching his long-term agent, the splendidly named Beryl Vertue. This pretty much led to his career decline.

Disappointment was always breathing at the back of Hancock’s neck, it seemed.

Hancock, and other character actors, are regularly in my mind when I’m creating characters. Quigley, the hit man in my yarn The Bucket List, was partly inspired by the image of Tony Hancock stalking the streets with a gun.

Hancock could be said to be the perfect noir comedian, in fact. I’ve said before that crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order, and Tony Hancock’s comedy is pure noir. A natural loser. When I started writing I wanted to write small, odd stories about small, odd people – like Hancock.

Like his fictional incarnation, Hancock was prone to introspection, a concoction of egotism and self-doubt which he bared when he was interviewed in the BBCs Face To Face programme in the early 1960s.

Spike Milligan said of Hancock that he was a ‘Very difficult man to get on with. He used to drink excessively. You felt sorry for him. He ended up on his own. I thought, he’s got rid of everybody else, he’s going to get rid of himself and he did.’

As Tony Hancock said: ‘Stone me, what a life!’

(This first appeared at Tom Leins’ blog as part of his Under The Influence series)

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Recommended Read: Skull Meat by Tom Leins

Skull Meat - Tom Leins - jpegJoe Rey is a small town tough-guy-for-hire who digs himself deeper and deeper into the mire when he takes on a job for ageing gangster Marie Andretti.

Tom Leins‘ ‘Skull Meat’ is Brit Grit at its grittiest. Ulra-violent, foul-mouthed, atmospheric, hilarious and choc-full of great lines.  I loved it!

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/

 

Updates! An Interview, A Review, and Tony Hancock

too-many-crooks
Too Many Crooks

Over at SOLARCIDE I’m interviewed by NATHAN PETTIGREW and talk about TOO MANY CROOKS, London, boozing and more.

Pubs and alcohol are main characters in your work. When an idea for a story comes to you, does it already start in that setting? Are your characters already there having drinks when they are first conceived?

Ah. Well, as someone who has spent far too much of his life in pubs it seems a natural setting. It’s not a great stretch. Also, when people go to pubs they usually talk- or they did before WiFi Hotspots- and they usually talk rubbish, which can be pretty funny. I like to think I write absurdist fiction and most people in pubs are absurd or say something absurd at some part of the night.

Read the rest here.

TOM LIENS has a new feature at his blog where writers talk about their influences.  I plump for TONY HANCOCK. hancock460.jpg

Tony Hancock – the easiest comedian for charades – and I share the same birthday, May 12th. Whether or not we share the same death day remains to be seen, of course, and let’s just hope we can put that little fact-finding mission on hold for a while, eh?

Read the rest here.

And Tom also gives TOO MANY CROOKS  a tidy review.

If you can imagine a Guy Ritchie film re-cast with Carry On actors, you will come close to understanding this book’s offbeat charm!

Read the rest here.

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Leins

wu-tang-antho-coverPDB: Can you pitch This Book Ain’t Nuttin to Fuck with: A Wu-Tang Tribute Anthology in 25 words or less?

Tremendous hip-hop inspired collection edited by Christoph Paul and Grant Wamack. My story, INCARCERATED SCARFACES, is a Paignton Noir remix of Van Damme’s Death Warrant!

 PDB: Which music, books, films, songs or television shows do you wish you had written?

Music: Mule Variations by Tom Waits, and Hold On in particular. That song and album introduced me to his work back in ’99, and remain firm favourites.

Book: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. An absolutely devastating piece of work. If I were to read it again since becoming a father it would probably destroy me!

Film: Pulp Fiction. Most of my nominal ‘Top 10’ movies would probably be drawn from the 1990s, back when video shops still ruled the roost. Tarantino has plenty of detractors nowadays, but the Reservoir Dogs-Pulp Fiction one-two punch still excites me.

TV show: Breaking Bad. Such a smart, multi-faceted show. Excellent storytelling, and great attention to detail.

PDB: Which of your books do you think would make good films or TV series?

I would love to see a Paignton Noir TV series one day. Regional voices have always done well in the UK cop-show world, and I would like to see my shabby seaside town given the same treatment. It would be great to shine a light on the sun-blurred beaches, dilapidated caravan parks, murky amusement arcades and time-ravaged pubs that are this town’s stock-in-trade. I’m working on a ten-book series, starting with ‘Boneyard Dogs’, so there is plenty of scope for small-screen action. (Of course, I need to get the actual books published first…!)

PDB: Who are your favourite writers?

Far too many to mention, so I will namecheck the writer I have been reading back-to-back in recent weeks: Adrian McKinty. I thoroughly enjoyed his Dead trilogy years ago, but his Sean Duffy series – set in 1980s Northern Ireland – sees him raise his game to dizzy new heights. The volatile backdrop provides extra frisson, and the mysteries themselves are impeccably put together. Plus, anyone who uses Tom Waits lyrics as book titles is worthy of our attention, right?

PDB: What’s your favourite joke?

My literary career!

PDB: What’s your favourite song?

To answer this question properly would take me weeks of contemplation and research, so I will defer to the all-time most-played track on my iPod: ‘Unchained (The Payback/Untouchable)’ by James Brown and 2Pac, as featured on the Django Unchained soundtrack.

tomleins-2017-bwPDB: What’s on the cards?

My story THE STOOGE is in the first issue of the brand new California crime magazine Switchblade, edited by Scotch Rutherford. It is one of the nastiest stories I have ever written, and has little in common with anything else I have ever published. After that, my story HERE COMES THAT WEIRD CHILL features in ‘More Bizarro Than Bizarro’, the new anthology from Bizarro Pulp Press, edited by Vincenzo Bilof. It is Paignton Gothic rather than Paignton Noir – a slight departure from my regular stuff. In terms of flash fiction, I have a new batch of wrestling noir stories in the pipeline, which I hope people dig.

PDB: Anything else?

Thank you for having me, Paul!

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 HoneyNear to the KnuckleRevolution John and Spelk. He is currently working on a novella called Boneyard Dogs. Get your pound of flesh at https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com