Character Assassination: Wet-Look

“His real name is Charles, but I’m not sure whether that is his first name or his surname. As I walk up the rickety staircase the stink hits me. I peer through the doorway and see him gnawing at an oversized chicken leg. He’s sweating hard, and the stench fills my nostrils. He has grease-streaked silver hair and unruly mutton-chop sideburns. He hasn’t been near a shower in months, and all of his clothing is tinged yellow with filth.”

Skull Meat (Chapter 3: Slippery When Wet)

All fictional characters have a shelf-life.

Even Joe Rey – my thuggish loose-cannon of a private investigator, who has now notched up story appearances spanning 15 years!

Thankfully, Rey’s use-by-date is still decades away, but another one of my favourite characters – the deranged ex-cop Wet-Look – is preparing for one last hurrah.

Everything this guy says and does is obscene, which obviously makes him one of my favourite characters to write. He did bad things in Skull Meat and even worse things in Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, and I think it’s fair to say that his narrative trajectory will remain horribly consistent when he re-enters the Paignton Noir fray next year.

Like a lot of my characters – in appearance at least – Wet-Look was inspired by a real person. Nine years ago (shortly after starting my current job) a group of middle-aged ex-Devon & Cornwall Constabulary officers used to travel home on the same train as me – from what I assume was some kind of regular liquid lunch for ex-cops. In their midst was a man resembling Wet-Look: sweaty, red-faced, half-crippled and genuinely unnerving.

Every week this posse of tough-looking men – all wearing matching commemorative police ties –would sit in edgy silence, while an older guy gazed around the carriage, a lascivious grin etched across his puffy face. Every week the collective sigh of relief was tangible, as their elderly ex-colleague hobbled off the train with his walking stick, and the queasy spell finally was broken.

Sitting a few seats back – beer in one hand, hardboiled book in the other – I became fascinated by this awkward interplay, and the power that he clearly held over these men. Immediately, Wet-Look was born – featuring in a story at A Twist of Noir in September 2010. His scenes were resurrected and retooled for Skull Meat in 2017 and I liked the character so much that I remixed Meat Bubbles & Other Stories to allow Wet-Look to explore his… full potential.

I know that rumours are swirling about a 1980s-set Wet-Look prequel, so I am happy to confirm that these whisperings are true. What kind of sordid horrors turn an idealistic, clean-cut young cop into an obese, murderous degenerate? I already know – and you lucky people will have the pleasure of finding out!

Are you curious about the past – and future – of Wet-Look? Watch this space, sun-beam!

A Vulgar Display of Power @ Punk Noir Magazine

“I peel the bloody dressing off my nose and drop it into the sink. Jesus. My face looks like something out of a fucking horror-show. I’ve been sticking my nose into other people’s business for longer than I can remember. Usually for money, sometimes out of sheer perversity. My latest injury – caused by deranged Albanian with a box-cutter – feels horribly apt.”

My first story of 2019 went online today: A Vulgar Display of Power. Thanks to Paul D. Brazill at Punk Noir Magazine for running it!

This one follows on from the events depicted in Repetition Kills You, and sees Joe Rey get reacquainted with his on-off lover Cherry – and a new bunch of unsavoury characters!

She also appeared in Venus In Fake Furs last year, and I’m keen to explore their warped relationship further in a future book, as she is a woman who can definitely get Rey in all kinds of trouble!


2018 In Review

This time last year I remember feeling distinctly underwhelmed by my written output in 2017, and wanted to step up my game in 2018.

I have no such misgivings about my written output in 2018, and probably wrote more fiction last year than I have at any time in the last 15 years – which I’m very happy with.

New material aside, I also managed to finish a handful of long-abandoned projects – by hacking them up for parts and stitching them together in grisly new combinations, which was similarly satisfying. In some cases, decades-old antagonists were lifted out of botched books and given a new lease of life in alternative narratives.

My first two books (not written in 2018 admittedly), Meat Bubbles & Other Stories (Close To The Bone) and Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect) were released in June and September, respectively.

I also self-published a trio of e-book novelettes, Snuff Racket (also included in Meat Bubbles), Slug Bait and Spine Farm, all of which complement and expand the Paignton Noir universe explored in the books. Spine Farm is a direct sequel to Snuff Racket/Meat Bubbles, and paves the way for the events depicted in the upcoming Boneyard Dogs.

Slug Bait is part of a different (post-Repetition Kills You) timeline, and a number of supporting characters will also appear in future books. Of the three novelettes, this one sold the best, so something about the story must have piqued people’s interest. Either way, this narrative isn’t dead and buried – unlike half of the characters!

The novelettes are great fun to write – and have probably replaced my enduring obsession with flash fiction – although I still managed to notch up a handful of short stories across the course of the year:

XXXmas Boogaloo (Close To The Bone, January 2018)

Oozy Rat In A Sanitary Zoo (Spelk, February 2018)

Murderers I Have Known (Horror Sleaze Trash, June 2018)

Dirty English (Close To The Bone, July 2018)

Venus In Fake Furs (Retreats From Oblivion, August 2018)

Jingle Bells, Shotgun Shells (Punk Noir Magazine, December 2018)

Looking ahead, I have at least two books coming out in 2019 (watch this space for more details), and I would like to find a home for a couple of extra novellas too – which is easier said than done!

Thanks for reading!

Jingle Bells, Shotgun Shells @ Punk Noir Magazine

“It’s Christmas Eve and I’m standing in the middle of a stash house in Hookhills, bleeding from one ear and trying to work out which one of the hired hands I should shoot first: the skinny guy in the soiled Sexy Santa minidress or the fat fuck in the scuffed-looking ballistics vest.”

Thanks to Paul D. Brazill for running this year’s Paignton Noir Christmas story, JINGLE BELLS, SHOTGUN SHELLS, at Punk Noir Magazine.

This is a heart-warming festive romp involving firearms, fuckwits, Fentanyl and food banks. You can read it here.

And if you want some added Christmas cheer, why not check out my previous Christmas stories here?

Spine Farm: Out Now

“Let’s nail this ruddy arse-wipe.”

Christmas has come early for fans of Paignton Noir – my new e-book SPINE FARM is out now via Amazon.

UK link

US link

This one takes place a few months after the end of SNUFF RACKET (or MEAT BUBBLES, depending on which one you have read), and paves the way for BONEYARD DOGS next summer.

I never planned on writing this one, but I really enjoy telling the stories between the stories: shifting the pieces around the board, fleshing out the supporting characters and working out what makes Joe Rey tick. (And detailing hideous suburban atrocities, obviously!)

It is also set at Christmastime, in a snow-covered Paignton, so now is definitely the best time to read it!

If SNUFF RACKET was my twist on the serial killer sub-genre, and SLUG BAIT was my version of a heist story, this one drags the cold case sub-genre into Paignton Noir territory. I hope people dig it.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Still coming to terms with the traumatic events depicted in SNUFF RACKET, Paignton private investigator Joe Rey finds himself enlisted by hapless local cops Benson and Hedges to assist with a sting operation. Rey gets more than he bargained for, however, when he pursues a vicious sex criminal known as the Ladyscraper into a derelict tract of farmland. What he discovers shocks the whole town to its core, and Rey commits himself to unravelling a decades-old mystery involving a cabal of powerful men who want their queasy secrets to remain dead and buried. Welcome to the SPINE FARM.


Down and Out in Paignton and Torquay

“In 2017 Torbay was identified as one of the coastal communities with the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the UK, as well as being ranked as the local authority with the ninth lowest average wage in the entire country. Last year the synthetic drug Spice arrived in Torquay, and the situation degenerated so quickly and hideously that the mini-epidemic even piqued the interest of the national media.”

This month Tess Makovesky – author of Gravy Train (out from All Due Respect this month) – invited me to write a guest post as part of her ‘Where The Heck Wednesday’ series. Naturally, I wrote about Paignton! I wanted to step away from the stylised Paignton Noir universe I have created and shine a light on the real town, and how it has inspired my work.

You can find the feature here.

New Interview @ Messy Business

“This is blunt force storytelling: brief, sawn-off lines weaved into dense ominous chapters; repeated motifs and phrases; stream of consciousness period details; an unflinching eye for queasy observations; and a seamless blend of real-life events and fictional content. Taken together, it’s an intoxicating blend.”

This month I have had a lot of fun discussing David Peace’s tremendous Red Riding Quartet with Jason Beech, as part of his ‘Stuff I Wish I’d Written’ series. If you have read the books you will already know how impressive they are. If you haven’t read them, check out the interview and find out why I like them so much!

Earlier this month, Dave Burnham at The Haunted Pen checked out Slug Bait, and likened it to the illegitimate love child of Sam Spade and The Purge’, which is a great description!

And, last but not least, you can read my story Molotov Cocktail Lounge over at Paul D. Brazill’s new website, Punk Noir Magazine. This flash fiction piece is a taster for my book Meat Bubbles & Other Stories.

Casting Call: Repetition Kills You

“If you can imagine Charles Dance with a firearm fetish and a floral-patterned rayon shirt, and you are in the right ballpark!”

This week I had the pleasure of returning to Toe Six Press, where I contributed a Casting Call feature for my new book, Repetition Kills You.

Thanks to Sandra Ruttan for running the piece!


Dancing With Myself @ Sea Minor

“The common perception is that short story collections don’t sell, and yet you have published two this year. What’s wrong with writing a fucking novel, like everyone else?”

This week Nigel Bird, a fellow All Due Respect author, let me interview myself as part of his Dancing With Myself series. I tried to ask myself a bunch of questions which no one else has asked me, and realised that I am my own toughest interrogator!

You can find the feature here. Oh, and the interview took place in the Dirty Lemon (naturally), so look out for a brief Joe Rey cameo!

Repetition Kills You Interview @ All Due Respect

“For me the violence has to be bleary-eyed and unpleasant, but never gratuitous. A few years ago, I was taking my son to the library, when I walked past a pub in town, and saw bloodied people crawling out of the door. I later found out that someone had run amok with a hatchet. The surreal image of a ravaged-looking man draped over one of the many mobility scooters parked outside, leaking blood, stayed with me. This wasn’t slick Hollywood violence. Whatever happened inside was clumsy and reckless, and I think it is important to convey that feeling.”

Check out this great new interview, in which I discuss the past, present and future of Paignton Noir with All Due Respect publisher Chris Rhatigan.

Also online this week is a brief Q&A over at the The Big Thrill – the official magazine of the International Thrillers Writers (ITW).

Buy Repetition Kills You!