To get my own back on Tom Leins for the rusty pliers yesterday, I made him do a slot for Where the Heck Wednesday. In spite of the cattle prod, he’s come up with a great piece about, of all the surprising places, Paignton in Devon! Over to you, Tom (and I think I might have been in a pub like that, in Colne):
Book title: Repetition Kills You! (and others)
Setting: Paignton, Devon
Author: Tom Leins
My latest book, Repetition Kills You, is a literary jigsaw puzzle set it the south west coastal town of Paignton, England. Together with the neighbouring towns of Torquay and Brixham it forms the borough of Torbay, which was created back in 1998. Torbay – often referred to as the ‘English Riviera’ – relies heavily on the tourist industry during the summer months, and has an unsettling ‘ghost town’ quality during the winter.
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.
Paignton Hospital was shut down in 2017, and Paignton Police Station was bulldozed six or seven years ago for a property development that never materialised. (Note: I have preserved both locations for storytelling purposes!) The increasingly lawless, poverty-stricken environment detailed above forms the backdrop for my books. Cheerful stuff, right?
Unsurprisingly, Joe Rey – the unlicensed investigator protagonist in my books – doesn’t spend much time on the beach or in family-friendly pubs; he trawls derelict industrial estates, decrepit caravan parks, halfway houses, welfare hotels, crack-dens and pubs. Lots of pubs! Grim, distrustful places where the sun never shines. Establishments which survived the recession with a cockroach-like tenacity, where dark secrets continue to lurk! Some of the location names have been changed (to avoid legal action), but the landscape and geography of Paignton have been preserved.
Rey’s client base are generally middle-aged men with murky pasts – arguably the only people with disposable income in this town – and he does what it takes to survive as society starts to fray at the edges. (If you want a brief idea of local people’s capacity for poor decision-making, Torbay voted 63% in favour of Brexit!) Suffice to say, during the course of my books, Rey encounters plenty of violently dispossessed people who are way out of their depth.
Paignton is a small town, with a population of around 50,000, but it can still be divided up into very recognisable areas, and each one of these will get its own book in due course. This overarching plan is an attempt at mapping my version (and I suppose my vision) of Paignton. Seaside resorts like Paignton still have their own peculiar brand of retro Englishness, and I like to fuse this sun-faded view of Blighty with my own fascination with abandoned spaces and places to create my own warped take on Psychogeography.
All of this can be seen in my collections Repetition Kills You and Meat Bubbles & Other Stories and my e-books Skull Meat, Snuff Racket and Slug Bait. I’ve been writing about Rey for twelve years now, and I’m still not entirely sure if he is a good man with bad intentions, or a bad man with good intentions. Either way, he will be your tour guide when you visit the Wild Westcountry. Pay him a visit if you dare!
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, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash, Spelk Fiction and Close to the Bone. He is the author of three novelettes, SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET and SLUG BAIT, and two short story collections, MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Close to the Bone) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books).