Author Spotlight - Tom Leins

I've been reminded to post this one as I was back in the office today and saw the museum cabinet containing old weapons including a samurai type sword and police truncheons, which always makes me think of Joe Rey. It just feels like something that is crying out for Joe Rey to pilfer and use against the various weirdos and whackjobs that come into his periphery.

Leins is a curious case for me as a reader. He was one of the first indie authors I read when he opened the Wrestle Maniacs anthology containing a multitude of stories based around the world of pro wrestling, which Leins then built upon with The Good Book (see below). This led me to seek out his Paignton Noir books, but the first couple left me cold. Something called me back to them though and I really found my groove with them as the story continued and Rey got in further scrapes.

It's very likely the Joe Rey books are an acquired taste, but beneath the squalor of these down and dirty noirs is a protagonist with a rotted, but golden heart and prose that is always likey to elicit a chuckle, if not a hearty laugh.

Below are a collection of my reviews of Leins work including probably the stupidest review I have ever written, but of which I remain quite proud (in my own way):

Slug Bait: A Paignton Noir MysterySlug Bait: A Paignton Noir Mystery by Tom Leins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this time of health warnings it is apt to read one of Tom Leins' Paignton Noir books as they should come with some of their own. A good bleaching of the eyeballs might help upon completion.

This is the most I have enjoyed a Joe Rey book so far and I keep coming back because I always enjoy them in shorter form. This one sets up the story well and is action packed rather than just having Joe trawl through one deplorable pub after the next. There's plenty of black humour in here too and I snorted a number of times during my reading.

It would be a tough choice between contracting Covid and having to visit Paignton I'll say that much!

Meat Bubbles and other stories: The Paignton Noir Case FilesMeat Bubbles and other stories: The Paignton Noir Case Files by Tom Leins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Visit Paignton for:

The people: A wonderful array of rheumy-eyed psychos, sickos, perverts, murderous millionaires and scarred up prostitutes of varying genders.

The places: The Dirty Lemon with their highly erotic(?) floorshows, Paignton Yards and it's deep history of buried bodies, Paignton Harbour where you can go fishing… for the odd bloated corpse.

The weather: "The summer heat has settled over Paignton like a chloroform-soaked rag over the mouth of a snatched child."

The cuisine: "When I arrive at the pub a pair of elderly St. Johns Ambulance-men are carrying a cadaverous middle-aged man out on a canvas stretcher.
"Glassing? Knife fight? Pool ball in a sock?"
The first medic laughs bitterly.
"No. He ordered from the lunchtime specials menu…"

The smells: "sour milk and anal mucus."

The business opportunities: "The older I get, the more I realise that this town is full of mercenaries. Leftover soldiers from old, messy wars. When the dust settles everyone still wants a pay-day, and they don't care how they get it."

Visit Paignton

I'm not au fait with the tourist board situation in Devon, but it's highly likely that there is an office somewhere with a dartboard sporting Leins visage in the middle. Meat Bubbles and Other Stories treats us to the short greasy, bloody case files of Paignton's finest PI, Joe Rey. Here he is predominantly taking on various jobs for a disgraced ex-cop known as Wet Look. Be it finding a missing person, as a courier or providing muscle, there isn't much Joe will say no to and he knows as much; "Sometimes I really wish I didn't have principles. They only ever get in the way…"

This volume includes Snuff Racket, the second Joe Rey novella, which on initial reading I wasn't a great fan of, but it was the stories I read online that kept me coming back to Rey and Paignton and made me much more a fan of the work. It almost goes without saying that these stories are not for the faint of heart or the prudish and it Is definitely not advisable to eat tomato soup whilst reading.

Dirty Bullion: A Charlie Bars and Joe Rey ThrillerDirty Bullion: A Charlie Bars and Joe Rey Thriller by Tom Leins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"I have learned most of my valuable life lessons in care homes, car parks and crack-dens. Back against the wall - weapon in hand."

Tom Leins teams up with Benedict J. Jones to bring their respective PIs together as Joe Rey and Charlie Bars find their cases converging in Paignton. The prologue opens in 1945 on a Nazi U-boat carrying gold that has been spotted by the Allies and decides to go down even with the oxygen supply on the wane. From there we head to London, where Charlie is asked to look for the son in law of a jeweller before heading across to Paignton where Joe, fresh from prison, is confronted with a missing daughter of a local millionaire to find.

Paignton's right wing faction is brought to the fore in Leins previous novella, Sin Clinic, and here they are back in abundance looking to stop Joe and Charlie in their tracks as the search for the above parties intensifies. As usual, this is a lot of bloody fun with Leins usual ofbeat witticisms coming to the fore and mention of some of Charlie's previous exploits, which I imagine are further detailled within that series. I'll have to track them down in short order as they sound as wild as Joe's adventures.

This is a crime book that goes where many wouldn't dare and is worth the price of admission for that alone. I also imagine Chekhov's Gun rule applies to razorbladed nunchaku from here on out!

Ten Pints Of Blood: The Paignton Noir Case FilesTen Pints Of Blood: The Paignton Noir Case Files by Tom Leins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A man smarter than me once said that good investigative work is about asking the right questions. I find that the quality of my work generally depends on how fucking hard I hit people.”

Tom Leins takes us back to Paignton once more in this new collection of case files from crime fiction’s grottiest PI, Joe Rey. The usual cast of psychos and perverts orbit into Rey’s periphery leaving it with at least lifelong ailments. The writing is typically sharp, funny and engaging and I could read a million of these stories and not get bored.

The book starts out with the novella, Spine Farm: A Paignton Noir Mystery, which I described as a low rent Red Riding when I initially read it. From there it is short stories with Joe getting into bare knuckle boxing, old mental institutions and assorted dens of iniquity as well as his usual perch behind the cigarette machine at the Dirty Lemon. The rate with which Leins produces these stories shows no end in sight for the users and abusers of Paignton and the rough justice that Rey is wont to dish out. Here’s to many more!

Slop Shop: A Paignton Noir MysterySlop Shop: A Paignton Noir Mystery by Tom Leins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tom Leins brings us back to Paignton once more in all its acrid, squalid glory. Joe Rey is an investigator no more and finds himself working as a low level mob enforcer for aging matriarch, Marie Andretti. He’s coaxed into another missing person’s search by Paignton’s self-styled “King of Mince” and brushes into an old flame in the process. The case, of course, thrusts Joe into the path of Paignton’s countless psychos, sickos and perverts.

Leins continues his reign as the proprietor of the most down and dirty pulp noir always managing to elicit wincing laughs along the way. This is a short stab of filth that’ll keep me tided over until we return to Paignton once more.

The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard MenThe Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men by Tom Leins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Everyone in the fight game washes up in Testament eventually - it's just a case of how hard you land when you come skidding down the shit-streaked career pipeline."

The Testament Wrestling Alliance, as the above quote demonstrates, is the bottom rung of the professional wrestling ladder and the stories within this collection show that once you fall this far there isn't anything you won't do. The majority of the stories happen outwith the squared circle detailling what the various "has-beens and never-weres" are doing to get by and it is typically rather grisly to say the least.

In Leins inimitable style, there is the sordid imagery and the wicked turn of phrase to keep you rapt. "I'm not even sure which one of these bastards I'm going to shoot, but the other one will be picking brains out of his hair all fuckin' afternoon," just one of many memorable lines throughout. The stories are only loosely linked between the town, the wrestling and the characters, of which there are a lot, but the stories are vastly entertaining and don't really require you to remember who everybody is.

A funny, blood-drenched collection spanning 20 years in the history of the worst wrestling federation to ever exist in the company of its assorted murderers, robbers and druggies.

Everyone in town wanted to wrestle for Fingerfuck Flanagan, in the Testament Wrestling Alliance, and most of us regretted it - one way or another."

If you want a tast of Leins, see the below short story links from various excellent online journals:

49,000 Ways to Die

Splatterproof is Not a Challenge



Bone Train


  1. Thanks for this, Scott! I'll make sure I include a samurai sword in a future story. I know exactly which character would be in possession of a weapon like that!

  2. Ack! I've been too afraid to read Tom's books....he's quite lovely via email though :-)


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