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The Anatomy of a Story 

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, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Metal Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk. A Paignton Noir novelette, Skull Meat, is available via Amazon. Repetition Kills You will be published by All Due Respect (an imprint of Down & Out Books) in September 2018. Find out more at:


The Anatomy of a Story: Tom Leins discusses his brand new e-book, SNUFF RACKET, here at Jotters United!

A missing video. A dismembered girl. A deranged ex-con. And a disgraced private investigator. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it...


SNUFF RACKET is an alternative, extended version of my story ‘Didn’t Bleed Red’, which was serialised in the neo-Giallo magazine The Blood Red Experiment.

I will start with an extract from the Prologue, follow up with some background information on the inspiration behind the story, and end with a teaser from SNUFF RACKET itself. Enjoy!


Prologue: All Animals Scream.

Milan, Italy. 1975.

The cop’s lips are moving so fast it looks like he has been badly dubbed.

I have no idea what he is saying, but he keeps gesturing franticly towards the Intercontinental Hotel. My hotel. A small crowd of tourists has gathered at the gaping mouth of the adjacent alleyway. Lousy rubberneckers. A fat man in a tropical-print shirt holds up his hands – they are plastered in blood.


The director, Arnaldo, is small and slight. He has a wiry intensity that reminds me of some particularly vicious petty criminals I knew when I was growing up. He dismisses the uniformed cop with a nonchalant shrug, and weaves his way through the throng of bellbottomed extras, towards me.

“Signor Norton?”

I suck in my gut, pointlessly, and stand up straight. I offer him my hand. He brushes past me, and beckons towards his trailer with an unlit cigarette.


I have been working on this picture with Arnaldo for almost three weeks, but he has never invited me inside before now. The walls are plastered with lurid posters of his previous movies. Garish male fantasies with nonsensical titles. All but one of the posters feature naked girls. Nubile young blondes. It could be the same girl for all I know – I can’t see shit without my eyeglasses.

I brush a discarded black lace glove off the banquette and sit down. The seating heaves under my bulk, and Arnaldo winces.

The skinny little bastard sure has a nerve. I glance down at the glove, and wonder whether he ever wears it to masturbate?

Arnaldo offers me a cigarette. I nod, and he ignites it with a chunky, expensive-looking lighter. It tastes noxious.

It reminds me of working on a movie called ‘Dead From The Waist Down’, in which the director used real chloroform in the kidnap scenes. I played a cop on the trail of a wheelchair-bound serial killer. I must have passed out six times shooting the climactic fight scene. At some point I cracked my head open on the wheelchair and the gash required twelve stitches.

Arnaldo puffs on his own cigarette, massaging the bridge of his nose.

“Signor Norton. I am sorry to tell you: the shoot has been postponed. The dead girl in the alley. She was the third girl this month. The Mayor has demanded that we bring a halt to the film. He said my movie leaves a bad taste in his mouth.”

I nod. A bit like these fucking cigarettes.

“You are welcome to return to the United States while we establish a new itinerary. I will see that you are paid in full to compensate you for your inconvenience.”

Yes you fucking will, I think.

I reach for another cigarette, despite the foul taste.

Arnaldo nods earnestly at me, plucking numbers out of thin air, while I give him my best, shit-eating grin.

Yes you fucking will.


During my late 20s I worked for a now-defunct UK home entertainment magazine called DVD Monthly – a national publication which was improbably run out of a sub-let box-room on Marsh Barton industrial estate in Exeter. A grizzled old-timer known as The Grifter quickly took me under his wing and introduced me to the dubious charms of what were dismissively termed the ‘back-end features’.

Among the regular back-enders were ‘5 Minute Film School’, which scrutinised various obscure sub-genres – the bulk of which weren’t even available on DVD. The Giallo ‘Film School’ piece captured my attention and prompted me to write about everything from Bruceploitation to Poliziotteschi to Hindi Horror in subsequent months. If it’s weird, violent and slightly shoddy I probably like it…

I’m no connoisseur, and a lot of the Giallo films I have watched over the years have been at the trashier end of the scale, and were released by the Shameless Screen Entertainment label – instantly recognisable in the UK by their lurid yellow (Giallo inspired!) covers and DVD boxes. When DVD Monthly was abruptly shut down, we literally filled bin-bags with whatever was lying around our grotty little office, and I managed to grab a bunch of these. Weirdly, I found a handful of Shameless DVDs in my attic as recently as last year…

The Milan-based SNUFF RACKET prologue may be unusually exotic for me, but the story itself takes place in the Paignton Noir universe that I’ve painstakingly stitched together over the last decade. It mashes up a number of familiar Giallo tropes – voyeurism and violence, sex and slaughter – with my warped world of shit pubs, grubby sex hotels and sleazy video shops. It sounds incongruous on paper, but I’m confident it works!

Here’s how the story starts…

Before it was repainted with piss-yellow emulsion, the toilet cubicle door at the Dirty Lemon bore the legend: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

I’m reluctant to gaze into the toilet before flushing, let alone gaze into the abyss, but I have worked as a private investigator for almost a decade, and I am confident that I have seen the worst that this town has to offer.

Sometimes I take a step back from the abyss, sometimes I plunge straight in. Either way, the corrosive stink of degeneracy clings to my skin at night. I sit in my rooming house, drinking and brooding, until I pass out.

Then I get up and go through the whole sick charade again.

The toilet bowl is the colour of bad dreams. I yank the flush and walk back into the pub.


The barmaid, Spacey Tracey, is outside – scrubbing blood off the wheelchair ramp. There was a fight last night. Not a bad one – a standard mid-week scuffle – but a fight all the same.

Seeing rotten teeth smashed out on railings at closing time may seem shocking to some, but I’ve witnessed amateur dental work perpetrated by hoodlums with pliers and chisels in Brixham basements. This kind of low-rent shit pales in comparison.

I head back to my usual seat, behind the cigarette machine. A grotesquely fat man is sat in my chair. He is so big that you would need livestock scales to weigh him properly. He is wearing an enormous tweed jacket and a blood-red neckerchief. His face is red and swollen-looking, and when he smiles at me I can barely see his eyes.

“Mr Rey?”

“Who’s asking?”

“My associates call me The Auctioneer…”

I shake my head, wearily.

“Fuck off, mate. I’m not calling you that.”

The colour momentarily drains from his face. He reaches into his jacket pocket and takes a blast off a Ventolin inhaler.

I grab my overcoat and walk towards the exit, careful to avoid the blood patch.

“Where are you going, Mr Rey?”

I ignore him.

“See you tomorrow, Tracey.”

She grunts, and ignores me.

I get to the bottom of the wheelchair ramp and a fist connects with my jawbone, sending me sprawling into the dried blood. The fist unclenches and drags me back inside the pub. It’s attached to a meaty arm, a thick neck, a scowling face and a prison haircut.

The Auctioneer is still grinning inanely, when I’m dumped at his feet.

“Shall we try that again, Mr Rey?”


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