Saturday, September 1, 2018

Book Review: 'Violent By Design (Book 3 in the Eye for An Eye series)' by Paul Heatley

‘Whoever it was is gonna try to sell them pills, and they’re not gonna do that wearing masks.’

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.

The setting is Newcastle - the seemier parts – and the characters Paul has created are introduced like a lineup at the station. ‘Jimmy was [angry} when he got the news. Tony wasn’t surprised. “Two blokes,” he said. “Masked. Shotguns. That’s all you’ve got for me?” Josh nodded. He sat on one of Jimmy’s sofas, looked sorry for himself. He rubbed at his jaw, ran his tongue round the inside of his mouth. Tony was standing. “I didn’t recognise either of them.” “Whey, if they were wearing masks, I’m not really surprised, Tracksuit.” Tony set his jaw, didn’t bite. It had been a long time since anyone had last called him ‘Tracksuit’. The moniker had faded mostly because he didn’t wear them as often as he had. He didn’t get to work out as much as he’d used to — he didn’t have the time. He hit the gym as often as he could and he’d built up a fair bit of muscle, but he didn’t get to run as much as he would have liked. He’d always been more of a runner than a bodybuilder. The nickname had been a slur, anyway. Tony understood why Jimmy felt compelled to use it. His face was bright red, the veins bulged in his neck, when he wasn’t spitting vitriol he paced the floor, stomped his feet. They’d called him straight after the robbery. Tony spoke, Josh held his jaw and waved off. Wherever Jimmy was when Tony rang, it was loud. A nightclub, probably. He hadn’t heard what Tony said the first time. “What?” “We’ve been robbed.” He heard it the second time. Jimmy told them to get to his place, wait for him there. He’d be a half-hour. Tony and Josh waited outside, watched for him. Jimmy was an hour.’

And so it goes - the bracketed words are in truth raw terms like the language of a noir crime novel should be. The plot outline shines a bit of light on the story – ‘After a raid on one of Neil Doyle's drug houses, his new right hand man Jimmy Finlay is determined to keep the news quiet from Neil and to deal with things himself. The person responsible, however, is not someone that can be dealt with quickly. He's a dangerous man with a bad reputation. Things are primed to get bloody in Newcastle, and that's the last thing Neil needs as he works on the unveiling of his brand new nightclub. If Jimmy can't get things under control, Neil's going to have to turn to one of his firm's old hands, Graeme Taylor. Trouble is, no one has seen or heard from Graeme in close to a year, save for his surrogate son Tracksuit Tony Gordon, and he's not in any rush to give him away. But there's only one way things can end with men this violent by design.’

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 other 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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