“Leins’s Paignton is like an open, festering wound on the underbelly of a failed society.”
(Chris Rhatigan, All Due Respect publisher, writing at Criminal Element)
This week I was extremely flattered that my novelette Skull Meat was included in an eclectic list of crime books with a strong sense of place over at Criminal Element. The list was put together by Chris Rhatigan – the publisher behind top independent crime imprint All Due Respect.
He said of Skull Meat: “The atmosphere is as dark and deliciously depressing as they come – the vomit-slick floors of pubs, the scummy offices of criminals, a decrepit local hospital. The characters reflect the place as well, almost to the point of blending with it so the reader can’t tell them apart.”
For people who aren’t familiar with my home town, Paignton is a much-loved holiday destination within the UK. I think that seaside towns in this country have a Jekyll and Hyde quality depending on the season, and all manner of unknown horrors lurk below the surface. I’m a big fan of location-as-character in fiction, and although I’m pretty well-travelled, I don’t think I could sustain a book (let alone a series) set anywhere other than Paignton.
The characters and scenarios have been given an apocalyptic edge, and some of the location names have been changed (to avoid legal action…), but the landscape and geography have been preserved. Ultimately, this is my interpretation of Paignton, as filtered through the prism of my obsession with US crime fiction.
Every time I think my stories have drifted too far from reality, I pick up a copy of the Herald Express, and scour the crime reportage, and realise that I’ve only scratched the surface of what actually goes on in this town. (And then I file away the details for future use!)
I sometimes wonder: could a private investigator really flourish in a town like Paignton? Well, they bulldozed Paignton police station to make way for a property development that never happened, and now they have to send out-of-town cops down in people carriers to raid local crack-houses. So, yeah!
Anyway, brand new Paignton Noir coming very soon – watch this space!
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