Boneyard Dogs (Close To The Bone) – my brand new Paignton Noir Mystery – was almost the book that never was.
I wrote the first 5,000 words around a decade ago, for one of those ‘debut crime novel’ competitions that broadsheet newspapers sometimes run. The content was wildly unsuitable for that kind of endeavour, but I pressed on regardless. Suffice to say, I didn’t win, and I didn’t even manage to finish the book!
Every year, I would dutifully retrieve the manuscript, make some new notes, and quickly run out of steam – retreating to my short story safe haven. A few years later, I won a flash fiction competition run by a now-defunct literary website. The story was called ‘Paignton Can Keep My Bones’. It was a grim, violent mood piece that preceded a welcome creative surge. Even better, I now had the prologue that kick-started the Boneyard Dogs narrative. Or so I thought…
I still couldn’t get the narrative to click. I wrote Skull Meat to clear the writer’s block – and killed off a few supporting characters in the process. The picture became clearer as a timeline emerged. Then I wrote Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, and the timeline shifted again. Dead characters were hauled away in digital body-bags. Surviving characters re-emerged to cause chaos.
I now had a fully-fledged whodunit, but I had no idea who actually did it! The final piece of the puzzle – quite literally – originated as part of a botched story about notorious crime scenes. I realised that I now had the blood-splattered ending I was looking for all along.
Finally, the book started to flow. Discarded scenes were redeployed elsewhere in the narrative. A couple of memorable set-pieces were retrieved from an abandoned screenplay called ‘Exile on Winner Street’. That one was also ten years old, and this queasy content was merged seamlessly with the existing storyline. Retain, revisit, remix, repeat. If the creative process sounds brutal, the storyline is even more hardcore!
I’m fond of describing my 2018 book Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect) as a literary jigsaw puzzle – the stories are presented in alphabetical order, rather than chronological order – but Boneyard Dogs turned out to be the real jigsaw puzzle.
It took me ten years to unravel my own narrative mystery. Can my anti-hero Joe Rey find the missing daughter of a demented lounge singer in seven increasingly brutal days?
Find out for yourself from 26th July!
Bio: Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of the Paignton Noir novelettes SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET, SLUG BAIT and SPINE FARM and the short story collections MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Close To The Bone, June 2018) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, September 2018). BONEYARD DOGS: A PAIGNTON NOIR MYSTERY will be published by Close To The Bone in July 2019, and THE GOOD BOOK, a collection of wrestling noir will be published by All Due Respect in December 2019.