The Blood Red Experiment: Tom Leins

Featured Image -- 2588The Blood Red Experiment:
A Serial of Giallo-Inspired Novellas
Tom Leins
Didn’t Bleed Red

  • How did you first discover Giallo?

During my late 20s I worked for a now-defunct UK home entertainment magazine called DVD Monthly – a national publication which was improbably run out of a sub-let box-room on Marsh Barton industrial estate in Exeter. A grizzled old-timer known as ‘The Grifter’ quickly took me under his wing and introduced me to the dubious charms of what were dismissively termed the ‘back-end features’.

Among the regular back-enders were ‘5 Minute Film School’, which scrutinised various obscure sub-genres – the bulk of which weren’t even available on DVD. The Giallo film school piece captured my attention and prompted me to write about everything from Bruceploitation to Poliziotteschi to Hindi Horror in subsequent months. If it’s weird, violent and slightly shoddy I probably like it.

  • Do you have a favourite film or director?

One of my favourite movies within the Giallo sub-genre is probably Dario Argento’s feverish, mind-boggling Suspiria, which comes highly recommended.

That said, a lot of the Giallo films I have watched over the years are at the trashier end of the scale and were released by the Shameless Screen Entertainment label – instantly recognisable in the UK by their lurid yellow (Giallo inspired!) covers and DVD boxes.

When DVD Monthly was abruptly shut down, we literally filled bin-bags with whatever was lying around our grotty little office, and I managed to grab a bunch of these. Weirdly, I found a handful of Shameless DVDs in my attic as recently as last year… Anyway, it’s these deranged, cheerfully exploitative movies that have inspired my story in The Blood Red Experiment, rather than the more sophisticated work of Argento.

  • How would you pitch your story to potential readers?

Didn’t Bleed Red takes place in the Paignton Noir universe that I’ve painstakingly stitched together over the last decade. The story mashes up a number of familiar Giallo tropes – voyeurism and violence, sex and slaughter – with my warped world of shit pubs, grubby sex hotels and sleazy video shops. It sounds incongruous on paper, but I’m confident it works!

(And yeah, sure enough, there’s a deranged sex-killer in a motorcycle helmet running amok with a meat cleaver…)

  • What appeals to you about the serialised format of the magazine? And what were the biggest challenges in terms of serialising your story?

I’m a pretty lousy plotter, so this little project has been a really interesting exercise in forward planning! I have really enjoyed working towards a major cliff-hanger every 2,000 words – so much so that I’m going to adopt the same approach for my next novella. This ‘restriction’ has given my story a frantic, twitchy kind of energy, and it has been a lot of fun to write.

  • Finally, do you have any future publishing plans that you would like to share?

I will have some very exciting 2018 publishing news to share very soon, but I’m keeping quiet until the contracts have been signed. Suffice to say, it involves one of my favourite independent crime fiction publishers. Watch this space!

Bio:
tom-leins-summer-2017Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction. A novelette, Skull Meat, is available via Amazon.

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

 

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Song for a Saturday: Madonna of the Wasps – Robyn Hitchcock

Coming this Halloween, a neo-giallo serial magazine The Blood Red Experiment. My novella in slices takes its name from this song. An ancient knife, a bloody ritual and a killer obsessed with his queen: get ready for the Madonna of the Wasps and six more compelling thrillers.

FREE: Smallbany #noir tale

Get it on your local Amazon for nowt all this week (just change .com to whatever your region is): a twisty-turny noir tale of dishonour among thieves in a small city.

Ends Friday!

Review: Big City Blues

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They’re coming fast and furious from Paul D. Brazill: it’s another cracking Near to the Knuckle novella from Mr B, the hardest working man in Brit Grit. This is #9 in the series and like the others a rip-snorter of mayhem and it’s got plenty of humour.

Big City Blues ranges across Europe and over to the colonies, or at least New York, which is a world of its own. Brazill always like a sprawling jumble of wild threads which he slowly knits together over the course of the unpredictable events and connections. Even his Seatown stories make the small burg feel complex. It’s not like wild coincidences either; it’s more like Six Degrees of Separation — or in this case, maybe only three degrees.

There’s a joyful abundance that teeters on the baroque: old cons, old cops, young geezers, unpredictable collisions of desire and convenience, and always sudden bone-crunching violence lurking around the next corner. Some of the jokes my grandfather would know but with a twist that makes them new again, and so many original observations that had me laughing out loud with surprise. And don’t tell anybody but hiding in between the laughs, the grimaces, the double crossing and the name dropping, you’ll find heart-searing observations about the walking wounded and some prose that will knock your socks off:

The night had draped itself over the city, and the moon bit into the sky. He stopped on the neon-soaked street to breathe in the sultry air. He could smell the lust, the sin and the decay.

A shard of sunlight sliced through the blinds, picking out specks of dust that floated in the air. An old electric kettle boiled in another room. A refrigerator hummed. A dishwasher chugged dully. A mangy black and white car strolled across the newly polished bar before curling up on a wooden bar stool and going to sleep.

Check it out; you’ll see why I’m such a fan. Buy it here or US here.

Review: Too Many Crooks by Paul D. Brazill

too-many-crooksToo Many Crooks
Paul D. Brazill
Near to the Knuckle Novella #7

I’m pretty much an easy mark when it comes to Mr B, as you’re doubtless already aware if you’ve read my enthusiastic reviews for his other publications. But I love writers I can count on (see also Liz Hand, the Abbotts, Tess Makovesky and some others I could name but why inflate all those egos?).

Too Many Crooks hits some of the familiar territory: colourful low lifes spread across Europe from Britain to Poland and points in between, salty language, implausible schemes and cataclysmic coincidences. It also has callbacks to other tales he’s written (fun if you know them, interesting hooks if you don’t).

But there’s something more in the wild kinetic machinations: dare I say a touch of the poetic? A lot of mad laugh out loud moments — the Mad Jaffa Cake Eater, a pruney face was so lived in squatters wouldn’t stay there, a Slippery Pole — and a whole bunch of references to classic punk tunes and venerable comedies, not to mention Fall lyrics.

You’d expect no less than offhand Carry On lines and knowing music choices for every mood. There’s a lot more, too:

He was also the world’s leading authority on the Klingon language, apparently and used speaking in Klingon as part of his radical therapy. Hattie had told him she wasn’t interested and had never seen Star Wars and he’d glared at her.

“If you haven’t made a fool of yourself at least once in your life, you haven’t lived,” said Anna.
“Oh, well, if that’s true, I’ve lived more lives than a cat, then,” said McGuffin.

He watched Leslie leave the café and put up her umbrella, which flapped in the wind like a black crow.

He was hungover from a bad dream, or maybe a bad life.

The old grandfather clock had just struck thirteen.

Obviously I could go on and on. Just the audacity of naming a primary character McGuffin (snort!). Get it. You need the laughs. Because all orange clowns should be fictional.

FFB: People Who Knock on the Door by Patricia Highsmith

9780349004976-usI started reading this on a transatlantic flight thinking I would be able to nod off get a little sleep. But it’s Highsmith, so of course I finally had to force myself to close the book so I could sleep a little. As Sarah Hilary’s astute introduction spells it out, ‘Her great skill was to make us, dear readers, complicit….Highsmith, let’s face it, is addictive.’

I’m not sure there’s a ‘typical’ Highsmith, but this one’s definitely an outlier. For one thing the protagonist is a high school kid. Written in the midst of the rise of the so-called Moral Majority in the Reagan years, her contempt is palpable for the grubby little hypocrites who trumpet ‘morality’ whilst using religion as a club to batter down any dissent.

But it doesn’t at once seem like a ‘crime’ novel. After a while I stopped waiting for something ‘criminal’ to happen and just settled in to the life of Arthur Alderman (oh, what a name) in a seemingly idyllic Midwestern town where everyone is a specifically odd reality and the sinister march of darkness creeps through the niceness everyone desperately struggles to maintain.

That unease: that’s Highsmith. That’s the art I struggle to put a finger on. How easily, how pervasively she develops it. I need to study her more closely. It feels effortless, but it’s got to be so carefully built. Into the maelstrom of religious tension, abortion controversies, money matters and always intimations of ‘morality’ that slowly drive a wedge into the ‘perfect’ family.

You always knew they were not perfect. But when it all explodes, it’s still a shock.

Her racism is much more on show here. Highsmith makes it a part of the small town outlook, a nodding us vs them mentality. The mindset that Arthur struggles against, both with his father’s closing mind after his ‘born again’ moment and with the ‘why not just settle’ message he gets from almost everyone else.

He comes to a conclusion, a philosophy that seems to finally bring him peace:

Take life as it comes. Enjoy and be grateful. Not grateful to God, but to luck and chance. Tread carefully, speak carefully, hang onto what you’ve got. Be polite to what you’ve got.

Of course that’s when, as they say, all hell breaks loose. Of course, this is Highsmith country.

Discover your new reads at Patti’s round up of overlooked tomes.

 

New Pledges @ Satan’s Sorority

Those devilish girls of Sigma Tau Nu — here’s a few portraits of ones who are new!

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Esther Panhandles

ss-chloe-fleur-devil

Fleur D’evil

ss-chloe-joccelina-van-de-chuff

Joccelina van de Chuff

Many thanks to the multi-talented Chloë Yates who swings a fine pen herself: check out her many publications here.