Saturday, September 8, 2018

Book Review: 'The Runner (An Eye For An Eye Book 2)' by Paul Heatley

“Your brother-in-law obviously sees there’s a lucrative market in stoners over here.”

British noir author Paul Heatley lives in the north east of England. His fiction is dark and bleak, populated with misfits and losers on a hellbound descent, often eschewing genre and geography to create a nightmarish vision of a harsh and uncaring world - The Motel Whore, The Vampire, and The Boy. Paul’s short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Horror Sleaze Trash, Spelk, Near to the Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, the Pink Factory, and the Flash Fiction Offensive, among others. He also contributes music reviews to R2 magazine. AN EYE FOR AN EYE was Book 1 and THE RUNNER is Book 2 of an ongoing trilogy.

The setting is Newcastle - the seamier parts – and the characters Paul has created are introduced like a lineup at the station. ‘Jackson Stobbart tried to remember how much he’d had to drink. They hadn’t been out long. A couple of hours, tops. He couldn’t make it out the time on his watch. His vision blurred. He was in the bathroom of the nightclub, wrapped around a toilet bowl and trying not to throw up. His legs had failed him. He’d fallen through the door, his feet kicking out under him like he was slipping on ice. He’d careened into the nearest stall, shoved aside the other patrons who, rather than protest, got out of his way, alarmed both by his hurry and his lack of colour. Three drinks? He could count them on one hand, he was sure. Maybe four. It could’ve been five. Still, that wasn’t enough to make him feel the way he did. His stomach was knotted like it was ready to bring up everything it held, but all he really wanted was sleep. It didn’t matter he was on a wet bathroom floor and outside of the stall he could hear other men hurrying him, trying to get in. Beyond all that, he could hear the dull repetitive beats of the music. He just wanted to sleep. Then the door was open, strong arms wrapped themselves around him, under his armpits and pulled him to his
feet. Jackson tried to get loose, tried to swear at them, whoever they were, but all the strength was gone from his limbs, he couldn’t be sure his words made any sense. Then the sensation of being dragged along, an arm around his waist, his own arm slung over the shoulders of someone taller than him. Taller, but slight. A woman, maybe. Cathy? Dragged, still. Dragged out of the bathroom, the music suddenly louder, deafeningly so, then outside, into cold night air that almost slapped his vision straight, but not quite. Then they stopped, leaned against a wall. Jackson tried to get his bearings. The streetlights nearby strobed, streaked across his vision. He had to wince away from them, pained. Everything hurt. “You look like you’re gonna be sick, Jackson.” Cathy. Definitely Cathy. It was her voice. “Mind me shoes.” Her heels. That was why she was taller than him. Generally, when she was in flats, they were the same height. “D’you think you can walk?” Jackson said something. He wasn’t sure what it was. “I’ll get us a taxi, eh?” He thought he managed an ‘Aye’. Maybe he fell asleep, but the next thing he knew he was in the back of a taxi. He gave a start, thinking Cathy gone – but she was there, beside him. She held his hand, squeezed it. He didn’t remember getting home.’

Scene set for one character and the plot brings back the others in the series –‘ Davey Hoy's money has gone missing. Jackson Stobbart thinks he knows where Cathy has run with it and he follows her north-east to their seaside home town. He's hoping to get it back before anyone notices it's gone. Unfortunately for him, Cathy has run to her ex-boyfriend to hide-out, and Jackson's never been much of a fighter. However, if Jackson has to go through the ex-boyfriend to get it, well, he'd rather do that than tell Davey the truth. Meanwhile, back in Newcastle, Davey has problems of his own. Desperate to prove himself to Michael Doyle, a man he despises, Davey has to try and keep his cool while dealing with people he knows to be lesser than himself. And that's before he finds out that someone has done a runner with the money he's been stealing from Doyle.’

But the gore and superlative sculpting of a crime novel must be read in its entirety to appreciate the gifts of Paul Heatley. He has this genre down pat and few others can top his style. Step into the dark and enjoy the fun.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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