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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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.

Enter to Win SATAN’S SORORITY

Satans Sorority Promo Image SLJ

 

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Review: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

One for the music fans amongst you: you may know Hand’s work from the Cass Neary stories (if you don’t know them yet, waste no time diving into Generation Loss and then jump into Available Dark and Hard Light). While Cass brings a punk sensibility to the rebel photographer’s life, this novella explores the harder edge of alternative folk music in the sixties. Wylding Hall is of course the place where the mystery happens and the narrative unfolds like one of those Behind the Music docos.

Blurb:

After the tragic and mysterious death of one of their founding members, the young musicians in a British acid-folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with its own dark secrets. There they record the classic album that will make their reputation but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers (including a psychic, a photographer, and the band s manager) meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell his or her own version of what happened during that summer but whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake?

Like all of Hand’s books, it cracks right along with indelible images, told through the different voices of the band members and the others who become entwined in the tale. The mystery of what has really happened to Julian deepens as the ‘eye witnesses’ of course don’t agree — and don’t see the same things. There’s a familiarity with the music world that will satisfy fans (showing Hand’s encyclopedic knowledge of the field with such touchstones as Brian Jones’ The Pipes of Pan in Joujouka), a touch of the supernatural (or is there?) and a lot of emotions boiling under the surface of a tight-knit group, as you would expect. All of which makes for great fun.

Some snippets:

On folk songs: ‘It’s a kind of time machine, really, the way you can trace a song from whoever’s singing it now back through the years—Dylan or Johnny Cash, Joanna Newsom or Vashti Bunyan—on through all those nameless folk who kept it alive a thousand years ago’

‘He reminded me of Syd Barrett. Oh god, I thought, another fucking acid casualty.’

“Burna thyn haer yn flamme Tiss wrennas fedyr and thyn hatte blod.”

‘As soon as he opened his mouth and began to sing, the room fell quiet. Not just quiet: dead silent. I’ve never seen anything like it. Like a freeze-frame in a movie. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. Nobody breathed. I know I didn’t, not for half a minute. It sounded as though he were whispering the song into your ear.’

‘Truth is, often Lesley got the fuzzy end of the lollypop. Didn’t get enough credit for the songs she wrote or the arrangements she came up with, didn’t get credit for how much of our live performances she carried.’

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Review: Ersatz World by Richard Godwin


Ersatz World
Richard Godwin
Number 13 Press

There’s a reason people refer to Godwin as The Dark Lord. He loves to explore the depth of depravity in the modern world. This novella from our shared publisher Number 13 Press might be a little lighter on gore than some of his more brutal books but it makes up for it with paranoia and sexuality. There’s the blackest of black humour here too, especially in the names like protagonist Samuel Verso (the medieval terminology for the sides of a sheet of parchment are recto and verso).

Verso is a publisher and the nexus of a web of problems. His best selling author has disappeared, his partner demands they move into ebooks, his wife is so far beyond anorexia that she lusts for having her limbs removed — and he suspects that he’s being followed, but by whom?

Everybody has a fetish: for his wife Phyllis it was ‘something inside her that was trying to emerge into day…she could only find when the cutting began’; for his partner Belinda it was the desire to see desire in every person she met; for Samuel it is books. Part of the reason he resists the move to ebooks is not only his growing paranoia about code taking over the world but a genuine desire for the book itself. His lover Maxine feeds this fetish: ‘She read from the novel and Samuel recalled publishing it. He could smell the print rising from her hand as he fondled her breasts.’ As she tells him later, ‘I read to you to turn you into a man.’

But even Maxine cannot save Samuel from his growing fears that somehow Fontana Rate, ‘the ever elusive bestseller who despised commercial fiction’ and the men who are following him — maybe? Is it all a delusion? As he asks at one point, ‘Is this some elaborate plan to make me realise my resistance to e-books is old fashioned?’ Or are the serial killers, government agents and tutu-ed libertines real? There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and you’ll find yourself reading faster and faster to figure out what happens. But you’ll probably guess wrong.

Check out all the 13ers at Number 13 Press — it’s Friday the 13th after all!