Paul Heatley blends genres into a seductive, stimulating blend that can only be designated as his own unique brand. His style is straightforward, clean and sharp, but his subjects are complex and provocative. There’s also a dreamy quality to the atmosphere he evokes that complements the otherwise rawly resonant realism, making his stuff relatable on a very basic level, even when he’s daring the reader to take a wild walk on the dark side of our common humanity.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan. We share both sensibilities and several influences, though our voices are quite distinct from one another. After all, we’re totally different people with completely different backgrounds.
Your fiction reminds me a lot of mine in terms of raw, dark sensuality. Do you see sex, noir and horror as a natural fusion?
Oh for sure, particularly sex. When you think about noir, the classics, whether books or movies, you find the two are inextricably linked. Double Indemnity, The Lady From Shanghai, Blue Velvet, Body Heat - they're all driven by two people attracted to each other, and they really shouldn't be. Or another example is The Grifters by Jim Thompson, again two people that REALLY shouldn't be drawn to each other, but for very different, taboo reasons.
And yeah, horror too. The everyday horror we try to turn a blind eye to, or that Hollywood coats with a glossy sheen - poverty, addiction, sickness, and the messy outcomes of these things, the grubbiness that goes with them.
How does your native England inform or inspire the tone, mood and themes of your work?
It depends on what I'm writing, or where I'm setting the story. For a long time, I couldn't set anything in England. It just didn't work for me. The storytelling and the storytellers I've always been drawn to are American, and I found when I started setting my stories in America, with American characters, my writing finally started to work. In terms of publications, I've been reasonably successful with this approach. After a couple of years when I did start setting things in England, primarily in the north east where I live, I found I could make it work here, too. I think the first I wrote was a short story called "The Straightener” which was published at Near To The Knuckle. Soon after that I wrote the novella An Eye For An Eye featuring characters from the same story, and I enjoyed setting it in Newcastle.
Newcastle is a very noir city. Anyone that's seen Get Carter can attest to that. It's not as rough as it used to be, but there's still a grimness to it. For a more up to date look, check out the movie I, Daniel Blake.
When I set things in England, I think they tend to have a bit more humour to them, despite the darkness. That's definitely influenced by the people, and the accent. I have a lot of fun writing the accent.
With my American-set work, most of the influence there comes from books and movies. The misery that seeps through all my work probably comes from the weather, though. It rains a lot. Right now, as I write this, it's very foggy. And it's always cold.
Your work is both pulpy and literary. Is this totally conscious, and do you see those lines gradually vanishing in today’s crowded, complex marketplace?
It's not necessarily conscious, I just write how I write, but I certainly take that as a compliment, so thank you! I think it's almost necessary for those lines to vanish. Too much 'literary' work can be quite boring, painfully so in some cases. A bit of pulp is needed to really keep the plots moving along, to keep the reader engaged.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
It's a varied list! Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Harry Crews, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Chester Himes, Bret Easton Ellis, Irvine Welsh, Heinrich Boll, Charles Jackson, Chuck Palahniuk, Philip K Dick, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Shirley Jackson, Don Winslow, Zadie Smith, James Baldwin, Mark Lanegan, Nick Cave, The Gun Club, Wu Tang Clan, David Bowie, David Lynch, Akira Kurosawa, Takashi Miike, Andrei Tarkovsky.
What’s next for you?
I'll have two books coming out in late summer with Near To The Knuckle, a prequel/companion piece to An Eye For An Eye called The Runner in August, and a sequel proper a month later in September entitled Violent By Design, and I have another coming in early 2019 with All Due Respect titled Guillotine. Other than that I'm working on a few other projects that will hopefully see the light of day! I try to keep busy.
Paul Heatley is the author of The Motel Whore & Other Stories, Guns, Drugs, And Dogs, An Eye For An Eye, and Fatboy, as well as fifty short stories published online and in print at the likes of Thuglit, Crime Factory, Spelk, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Shotgun Honey. He lives in the north east of England.
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PHOTO: PAUL HEATLEY