An Interview with Tom Leins – Meat Bubbles & Other StoriesSeptember 27, 2018
CTTB: Your latest short story collection, Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, is considered horror by some readers because there are scenes so violent people expect the pages to be stuck together with gore. But these stories are actually noir, a brand you call Paignton Noir, with a private investigator named Joe Rey, who is reluctant to take on another case that could have violent repercussions. Give us an example of a violent repercussion.
TL: Meat Bubbles & Other Stories picks up shortly after the ending of my novelette Skull Meat – which ended in memorably grisly fashion. At the outset of this book, Rey is in the same building (a pub called the Burning Wheel), with the same man (a deranged ex-cop called Wet-Look), and he can feel himself getting sucked into another unpleasant scenario. He knows exactly how gory things can get, but throws himself into the abyss regardless.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and administering beatings is something that Rey does well. While he may not be willing to pull the trigger himself – not an issue when he is rolling with a mad-man like Wet-Look – he is willing to go toe-to-toe with pretty much anyone.
It’s worth noting that the stakes get raised in future books, and some of the things that happen to Rey – and his body – are pretty staggering. Rey is a hard man – nowhere more so than in Meat Bubbles – but I don’t like the idea of an indestructible character. He is very much destructible, and every hideous thing he experiences affects his body and his mind. Watch this space to see how bad it gets.
I should note that the violent repercussions aren’t limited to Rey himself. These cases rack up a lot of collateral damage, most notably in ‘Snuff Racket’ – the closing story in the collection – in which a woman he cares about is badly brutalised, which prompts him to descend to a new low in terms of creative violence.
CTTB: Rey tangles with rogue ex-cops, suburban hitmen, neo-Nazi scumbags and even Paignton’s richest man – a notorious hoarder of unknown horrors… If anyone knows these unknown horrors, it’s you. Outline this character for us. What is this man hoarding?
PH: The character in question is a guy called Harlan Deloitte. A sixty-year-old millionaire whose philanthropic gestures just about conceal his sick impulses. Unlike most of the antagonists that Rey crosses paths with, Harlan is a more insidious presence – a shadowy figure whose queasy reputation precedes him. He manages to infiltrate a number of stories before the inevitable showdown between him and Rey takes place in the penultimate story, ‘Dry Salvage’.
I purposefully avoided depicting a running battle between the pair – not least because ‘Snuff Racket’ features a full-blooded running battle between Rey and a maniac ex-con wearing a motorcycle helmet. I think less is definitely more in terms of Harlan’s characterisation.
Despite his lack of page-time, he was fully fleshed out in my head. As an impossibly wealthy man in a poor town, I pictured him as a third-world dictator-type figure, frittering away his wealth as people around him struggle to survive. As with a lot of grotesques, it is always satisfying to fill in the blanks yourself, and imagine how bad this character really is behind closed doors.
To circle back to the question of what he is hoarding – I would suggest people buy the book and find out for themselves!
Tom Leins – 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, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction.
Three novelettes, SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET and SLUG BAIT, are available via Amazon, while his first short story collection, MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES, was released by Close To The Bone in June 2018. A new book, REPETITION KILLS YOU – described as ‘a literary jigsaw puzzle’ – will be published by All Due Respect (an imprint of Down & Out Books) on 21st September 2018.
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