If the hard-boiled edge of Mickey Spillane’s “I, the Jury” and the drug-infused rantings of William S. Burroughs’s “Naked Lunch” fused together in a whiskey-soaked opiate haze and procreated a demented crime fiction writer, Tom Leins would be that aborted fetus.
Leins writes with a strong vile style and his short story collection “Meat Bubbles and Other Stories” (Near to the Knuckle) does not follow standard mystery decorum. If that’s your jam then your face may melt when you begin reading this book. However, if you like syphilis-ridden whores, depraved drug use, and unprovoked brutal beatings, “Meat Bubbles” should be on the top of your TBR.
At this point, the reader may be thinking the reviewer is joking or exaggerating. I’m not. Seriously, I’m not. If I haven’t dissuaded you yet, this is the first sentence of the eponymous story should, “I carefully peel up my shirtsleeve with bloody fingers. The scalpel wound across my left arm looks like a splayed cunt.”
Now that they’re gone, let’s go on with it. Leins’s stories don’t exist on the edge where crime and civility meet, they burst through it to a town called Paignton–imagine your town’s police blotter on steroids. Leins’s main character throughout “Meat Bubbles” is Joy Rey, a barely functioning alcoholic and private investigator who prowls the city’s darkest streets. Rey will do any dirty work from finding lost criminals to delivering messages that won’t be forgotten. He does most of his work for money, but Rey, who is more comfortable at a dirty bar than a coffee shop, would probably do it for free.
This latest collection of short stories by Leins also includes a short novella that Leins self-published earlier this year, “Snuff Racket”. I said of that novella, “If you don’t mind violence like Sonny Corleone’s beating of Carlo Rizzi then Tom Leins’s ‘Snuff Racket’ is for you.” I reviewed his first novella “Skull Meat” saying that “Leins has created a world where Tarantino’s characters would not live past their first five minutes in town …”
With “Meat Bubbles”, Leins continues to beat on our anesthetized sensibilities creating crime fiction for the remorseless and bloodthirsty.