Wrestle Maniacs – Out Now!

The 1st of December saw the release of Wrestle Maniacs, a top-notch wrestling-themed short story collection edited by Adam Howe – the author of the highly recommended Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet and Tijuana Donkey Showdown.

Wrestle Maniacs includes my brand new story Real Americans, a standalone piece that also forms an unexpected epilogue to my existing wrestling noir online short story series, which will (hopefully) be collected and published as The Good Book in 2018.

In these stories, unhinged wrestling promoter Frank ‘Fingerfuck’ Flanagan – the owner of the infamous Testament Wrestling Alliance – rules his territory with an iron fist, and his personal road to hell is paved with dead wrestlers.

Real Americans takes place some eight years after the events of The Good Book, and follows the investigation of a brutal murder that sucks in the few surviving figures from Fingerfuck Flanagan’s unstable wrestling stable.

After drawing a line under my own wrestling series earlier this year, I was initially wary of revisiting my old stomping ground, but Real Americans was a hell of a lot of fun to write, and is (hopefully!) far funnier than the stories that preceded it.

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Over at my Dirty Books blog, I’m in the process of interviewing my fellow Wrestle Maniacs (Adam Howe, James Newman, Eryk Pruitt, Ed Kurtz, Hector Acosta, Joseph Hirsch, Duncan P. Bradshaw, David James Keaton, Gabino Iglesias, Patrick Lacey and Jason Parent), regarding their stories – and their own wrestling memories. As such, I think it’s only fair to share a few thoughts on my own relationship with sports entertainment…

I grew up in a small English town in the 1980s, and my first (indecent) exposure to wrestling was via the defiantly un-glamourous duo of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks – a morbidly obese pair of mortal enemies who waddled across my boxy TV screen on Saturday afternoons.

(Years later, when I was in the lucrative employment of Torbay Council, an ex-wrestler used to sleep in one of the shelters on Paignton sea front. I forget his name, but apparently he used to be a big deal and wrestle against Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks back in the day. He used to wake up soaked in his own piss every morning, and the council had to hose down the shelter before the holiday-makers arrived. I had to run interference – scaring off kids who were throwing coins and flicking lit matches at him.)

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After witnessing the underwhelming spectacle of Big Daddy (Shirley Crabtree to his family and friends) going through the motions, experiencing Vince McMahon’s WWF for the first time was a mind-blowing experience. Swollen muscles, bouffant hair, dangerously tight spandex: this was what was missing from my suburban childhood!

I struggle to recall the first ever WWF match that I watched, but I definitely remember renting 1989’s Hulk Hogan vehicle No Holds Barred from the South Pacific video shop, and then watching 1991’s Suburban Commando (twice) at a bizarre makeshift cinema at the English Riviera Centre a couple of years later.

The event that got me hooked, however, was definitely the WWF’s Battle Royal at the Albert Hall VHS from 1991, which I spent my pocket money on at the late, lamented Paignton branch of Woolworths. The London-based event was conceived as a push for a Davey Boy Smith – the British Bulldog – whose surging WWF popularity coincided with the recent arrival of wrestling on Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports channel in the UK. (Spoiler alert: Bulldog beat The Barbarian in 10:07 at the Albert Hall event, and then won the 20-man Battle Royal after upending a post-Tugboat Fred ‘Typhoon’ Ottman in the headline match!)

With Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and Bret Hart not making the trip over to the UK, the Bulldog was allowed to take centre stage (although the event was supposedly Ric Flair’s WWF debut, trivia fans!). With his meaty frame, braided hair and brusque Northern accent, the British Bulldog was an appealingly plausible home-grown alternative to exotic, balding middle-aged Americans like Hulk Hogan, and this event kick-started an obsessive relationship with early ‘90s wrestling – WCW included.

In truth, my own interest in wrestling died long before Davey Boy Smith did – I checked out in around 1995 – but I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting my pubescent passions in recent years, as I have put this series of wrestling stories together. I’ve also filled in a lot of gaps in my post-1995 wrestling awareness, although that initial era remains my clear favourite.

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Anyway, you can check out my earlier wrestling noir stories here (note: I’ll be removing these links in the near-future, as I prepare the collection for publication), and then buy a copy of Wrestle Maniacs to see how the saga ends!

   Amazon US

Amazon UK

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The Sunset Flip @ Story and Grit

“I first met Peter ‘Chicken Lips’ Delgado back in 1982 when I was wrestling down in Boca Raton. He was a 150lb weakling – out of his depth – and he got tossed around the ring like a rag doll. He barely lasted ten fights before his career flat-lined. I was the one who put him out of commission, with a Sunset Flip at a house show. Flipped him so hard I damn near broke his back. I was young and ruthless back then – more ruthless than I needed to be – and flattened him in front of less than a hundred people, just for the sheer fucking hell of it.”

Last month my latest wrestling noir story The Sunset Flip was published by Story and Grit, the new southern fiction site edited by Mark Westmoreland. Mark is a passionate wrestling fan, and a great short story writer, so his site was the perfect home for this simmering story of legacy and revenge. Check it out!

Interview @ Col’s Criminal Library

Earlier this month tireless UK book blogger Colman Keane invited me to take part in a Q&A at his excellent Col’s Criminal Library blog. Among other things, we discussed my new novelette Skull Meat, 10 years of Paignton Noir and my haphazard creative process. Thanks to Col for putting me through my paces!

And, in case you missed it, here is a link to Col’s top-notch review of Skull Meat.

Black Sheets of Rain @ Pulp Metal Magazine

“It was raining the day I buried my step-father, Eddie. I owned nothing in black, so I had to wear my work uniform: a crop top with the words ‘Slop Shop’ across the front in bright pink letters. By the end of the service I looked like the runner-up in one of our ‘Sloppy Sunday’ wet t-shirt contests.”

Last month I had a new piece of flash fiction published by the excellent Pulp Metal Magazine: Black Sheets of Rain. Big thanks to editor Jason Michel for running the story.

This one isn’t pure wrestling noir, but it is part of the Testament story cycle, and fits in alongside the other material.

Beauty and Ruin @ The Flash Fiction Offensive

“The midday sun burns like a bullet wound. It feels hotter on my bare shoulders than the arena lights on fight night. There is no breeze, and the stink from the petrochemical plant lingers in the air like an afterthought.”

Last month my story Beauty & Ruin was published by top US crime site The Flash Fiction Offensive

After Hellbelly and Gusher, this was the third wrestling noir story to appear at The F.F.O.

Big thanks to editors Hector Duarte Jr. and Rob Pierce for running the story.

The Last Dog and Pony Show @ The All New A Twist of Noir

“They say you always remember your first fight. Your first fight and your first fuck. I sure-as-shit remember mine. I was at the carnival, watching the kootch show, when Alvin Lupus broke his right wrist and four fingers on his right hand trying to shatter my jaw. I didn’t blame him – he had just found out that I had fingered his older sister up against the Crippled Civilians’ clothing donation box the previous Saturday night.”

Way back in 2010 my first wrestling noir story, Other’s People’s Pussy, was featured in the 600-700 word challenge, as hosted by cult crime site A Twist of Noir. Seven years on, the original editor, Christopher Grant, launched The All-New A Twist of Noir, and I was delighted to have my story The Last Dog and Pony Show on his new site.

More wrestling stories coming soon, but in the meantime, check it out!

Gusher @ The Flash Fiction Offensive

“The rain is so heavy I can barely see the cop car. Red and blue lights dance across the parking lot, like diseased ghosts, so I know they are out there. Fat cops in government-issue windcheaters, clutching pump-action shotguns worth more than my life insurance policy, are likely out there right now.”

Back in October, my story Gusher appeared at the Flash Fiction Offensive. Always a pleasure to end up in the Gutter!

gusher-tom-leins-flash-fiction-offensive

 

Meat Whiplash @ Twisted Sister

“When Eddie Chainsaw smiles, his face looks warped – like the reflection in a fun-house mirror. It makes me glad he doesn’t smile very often.”

Last month, my brutal new wrestling noir story Meat Whiplash appeared at a great new fiction site called Twisted Sister. Check it out!

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Truckload of Trouble @ Fried Chicken and Coffee

“I hear the rattle of the tow-truck’s rusted chain before I see it roll down the rutted track and into view. The last time I saw the Mulligan brothers they hung a guy known as Blood Bubble from a hook by the roof of his mouth then beat him with crowbars until his pale skin burst.”

My latest wrestling noir story, Truckload of Trouble, was published by Rusty Barnes at his excellent Fried Chicken & Coffee site last month.

If you dig it, the same site hosted my story Nude With Boots earlier in the year, so check that out as well!

truckload-of-trouble-tom-leins

The Cold Vein @ Spelk Fiction

“I point my shrivelled dick at the dogweed and it sputters like a badly inserted drip. I tuck it back inside my leotard and carry on down the dirt track towards Burrachaga’s clapboard shack.”

Earlier this month, I had a new story over at reliably entertaining UK flash site Spelk. Thanks to Gary Duncan for running seven of my stories over the last 18 months!

The Cold Vein is the latest story in my new wrestling noir series. If you like it, make sure you check out The Big Blow Off (also published by Spelk) as well.

The Cold Vein Tom Leins