There are a few holes in my film diary: an embarrassing one has now been remedied. Criterion has an absolutely mesmerising release of Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows with the radiant Jeanne Moreau. I swear there’s not a frame that doesn’t sing. Of course there’s the fine soundtrack by Miles but you probably already knew that. If you haven’t seen it — or haven’t seen it lately — it’s about time, don’t you think?
The Blood Red Experiment:
A Serial of Giallo-Inspired Novellas
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!
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, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction. A novelette, Skull Meat, is available via Amazon.
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.
TRUTH ALWAYS KILLS
Stark House Press
Blurb: A cop in departmental trouble knows his wife is being stalked, but feels helpless to do anything about it. Does he report it and bring undue attention to himself, or should he take matters into his own hands, and damn the consequences? A new thriller from the author of Turnabout and Shallow Secrets.
I knew Ollerman’s writing from his non-fiction on vintage crime writers. His style is mostly lean and mean. I thought this was going to be more noir, but it’s mostly police procedural (or in the case of this character, not procedural). Jeff Prentiss seems to be hiding a secret or two or ten from his estranged wife, daughter, partner, chief — well, pretty much anybody. He’s the loner guy who does things his own way and damn the rules. It seems he thinks justice is more important than rules, but his ‘justice’ gets more and more murky as the story goes on. Also his poor decision-making skills make you wonder how he ever became a cop. I found myself talking out loud to him, ‘Oh come on, that’s the oldest trick in the book. You’re not going to fall for — oh, you are.’
I was wondering if this was part of a series and I missed the first volume; the first few chapters seem to be filling in back story. There’s a lot of potential for intrigue with a notorious cat burglar and rising politician but they’re also the first corpses. I found it hard to get a handle on Prentiss. He treats everyone abominably and then wonders why he’s so isolated. He’s so emotionally stunted that a woman touching his hand makes him think he’s in love — minutes after declaring his undying love for the wife he keeps stalking despite her pleas for distance.
So, he’s a mess. If you like cynical cops who break all the rules in pursuit of their own justice, you’ll find a lot of Florida ambience permeating this quick-paced story. I had to look up lanai (okay, that’s a lie: you easily figure it out from the context). You can certainly feel the heat and humidity which is as close as I care to get to Florida. If not noir, it’s certainly noir-ish. Check it out.
The first filmed version of ‘grandmother of noir’ Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall. More recently there’s The Deep End. Both interesting in what they use and what they leave out. The novel is terrific. Teaching it again in the spring.
Says it all, really.
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.