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Chris Leek: a review by Ryan Sayles

WHERE WAS CHRIS Leek five years ago when I started this business?
            Doesn’t matter now. All I know is that with him around, I’ve been able to fill enough orders quadruple my output. That guy is the Yin to my Yang. The Chocolate to my peanut butter. The Shawn to my Gus. The dead to my hooker.
            But seriously, dead hookers. I make jokes about them all the time here. But it wasn’t until Leek came along that when one of my contacts said, “I need four Caucasian arms, a set of black legs and one still-intact head from an Asian,” that I was able to take the gig with confidence.
            There’s a black market for disassembled human parts. Junkies and whatnot are good when the buyers don’t care about blemishes and premature aging, but when someone drops coin on female parts, there’s very little to pick from outside of prostitution.
            You have to be picky with the private parts—weeding through VDs is an art unto itself, especially when the affected region is technically deceased—but when the run-of-the-mill Dr. Frankenstein needs a rush-order of organs or limbs, well, Chris Leek’s expertise shines. Then of course you've got your mob doctors, those South American drug lords who can't seem to get on a waiting list in the USA, dudes living in dank basements who just want to "practice," whatever that means, and so many more. Odds and ends pop up, directed to us by third party. And Chris has made it all possible.
            That dude just has it down. Luring them from some random street corner with a twenty dollar bill and maybe a little coke, to the back of his trunk to my operating room. Chris doesn’t bat an eye. Doesn’t look away. Doesn’t complain when I need help holding someone down until the Lorazepam takes effect. He’s good for jokes even when the hooker is thrashing about, screaming about her kids and how she won’t tell anyone about us.
            Chris Leek makes the gig easier. Better. Enjoyable. I don’t feel so much like a monster when he’s there, that smooth British wit sneaking in little remarks. How we make eye contact and just stare deeply as he hover over a dying person, waiting until the straining ends and we can stop sweating.
            He’s fast with the hose as well.
            So here’s to Chris Leek, trusted friend and cohort. With Thanksgiving happening last week—and filling so many orders I had to lie to my wife about why I didn’t come home…again—I started thinking about what I’m thankful for. Steady employment in this economy, a devoted and beautiful family, a well-honed straight razor and of course, Chris Leek.

***

Define noir for the masses, please.
Noir is the smoke from the body burning in the dumpster or the taste of gun oil on the barrel of a.38.
In truth, I really struggle with all of that genre shit. It seems to me that genres only exist to make those literary types feel superior. They all walk around like they have a broom handle shoved up their collective ass and look down on anything that doesn’t include ten layers of metaphor and gushing descriptions of purple sunsets. Well, they can all blow me.  
I imagine being serviced by someone who “gushes descriptions of purple sunsets” might be so delicate and emotional I might actually feel dirty when it’s over. I’m not saying I wouldn’t let it happen, I’m just saying I’m tired of feeling dirty after a complete stranger polishes me. Where does your grit come from?
I get it mail order from a guy in Wisconsin.  It’s top quality stuff and clumps up really well.  Oh right, you didn’t mean the grit we use for the cat to poop in, did you?
I suppose the other kind of grit comes from a mildly misspent youth. I was the original rebel without a clue. I left home the first chance I got, landed a crummy job and moved into an equally crummy flat (that’s an apartment to you) with three buddies. Well, two buddies and one guy that I would have happily pushed into traffic. The flat was in the kind of neighborhood where if you hit a red light you didn’t stop, but we had a blast; at least until the place burnt down.
Have you tattooed anything on your body that is based on one of my stories?
You write stories too?  Listen friendo, the human body is a temple and should never be defiled with something as crude as a tattoo. The fact that I have a topless Delilah Boothe riding a grenade inked on my ass is irrelevant.
Ahh…you’re speaking of the McGuffin-ish chick in my five-star debut novel, The Subtle Art Of Brutality, available here. Poor Delilah. All she ever wanted was a daddy. Chris, you can be her daddy. Also, only the greatest men ever have ass-tattoos. You’re incredible. Just incredible! What parts of Chris wind up in your stuff?
There are some bits and pieces of me that end up in there.  I’ve dated my share of cheap, gum chewing women for one, but mostly I just make this shit up.
More, please. If the interview keeps going this way I’ll fire you and re-interview Joe Clifford. You know he’ll do it. Hell, if given the chance Joe would interview for me every week.
I have heard people who know a lot more than I do saying that you should write what you know, but I’m not sure that I really agree with that. Unless you do a little wet work for the CIA on weekends or you moonlight as an erotic nipple dancer after your shift at Home Depot, then skip it. Imagination is king baby.
I think most people read to escape from the mundane of their daily grind, not to get a blow by blow account of someone else’s version of it.
Having said all that, I pull stuff from my everyday life all the time, although it’s not always a conscious decision. Recently I was reading back something I had written only to find that the guy in my story who murdered his wife with a claw hammer was a version of my old Economics teacher. Not that my teacher did actually murder his wife, at least not to my knowledge.  If you’re reading this Mr. Mitchell, you need to come clean!
The things that I routinely use are the places I know. No matter how wild the story gets I feel it hangs together better if you can root it in something solid.
I had a flash piece published at Spinetingler called “Party Favors”. It’s about a loser holed up in a crappy motel. He spends his Birthday tripping his ass off on PCP and being haunted by the ghosts of all the bad shit he’s done.
The whole thing is total invention, except the motel, that’s real. The only thing I changed was name; the rest was exactly as I describe it, although I left out the bite marks in the toilet seat. I kid you not!
That’s better. What brought you to the glorious, indivisible USA to begin with? What then brought you home to England? And, how has that affected your writing besides adding ‘whilst’ and ‘lift’ back into your vocabulary?
Pull up a chair; this might take a while. No, keep your pants on…for now.
No. Pants off. You know how I roll.
It was a Delta Airlines 747; that and a burning desire to get laid by hot blonde women wearing cowboy boots. I don’t remember which of us had to wear the boots now.
I grew up on a full fat diet of American TV shows and rock n roll. Back in the early ‘90s when I took off, we had Chesney Hawkes, Margret Thatcher and Poll Tax riots (Google ‘em folks); you guys had Bruce Springsteen, Baywatch babes and blueberry Pop Tarts. There really was no contest.  
I came out, bummed around and rode the Greyhounds. I made it as far north as Vancouver and all the way down to Key West. I travelled mostly at night as the bus was cheaper than a motel room, although the maid service sucked. I still try to ride on public transport at least once a month, just to keep my immune system topped up.
Eventually I wound up living in Henderson, Nevada. I came back to England when my mom got sick. That was a pretty rough time and I guess it finally forced me to grow up.  When I rocked up at McCarran to catch my flight home, I got hauled in by the INS and asked to explain why I’d overstayed my tourist visa by more than two years.
The US was and is a huge influence on my writing. I get back as often as I can. I have tried setting stories in the UK, but for some reason there’s a disconnect and it just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t capture the same feeling for the places that other British writers like Nigel Bird and Gareth Spark do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but America was my high school sweetheart and we’ve kind of been friends with benefits ever since.
I’ve been friends with benefits with my high school sweetheart as well. If, by that, you mean married and had several children with her, watched her grow from hot and curvaceous to covered in baby vomit with a crazy bird’s best of unkempt hair, always shrieking about not doing anything except writing for a crime fiction website and masturbating to online granny porn. But that’s love.
So you're plan was to simply experience the States? Did you plan on living, working, et cetera here or did you really just want to get the sights, smells, et cetera of us and see where it took you?
I certainly wasn’t intending on staying for as long as I did, I figured on 6 weeks or maybe a couple of months. I had a buddy who moved to Canada the year before (yeah, I know) so I had a loose plan to visit him, then just see the sights and smell the smells. If you’re interested the best smell was breakfast in Mary’s diner Vancouver, after spending two days and nights on the road; the worst came from a dumpster in Bakersfield, CA.
I had an open return ticket and a fist full of traveler’s checks. I seriously doubt you’d get away with what I did nowadays, the worlds changed a lot since then.
If you and I were to plan the ultimate crime, which of us would screw it up during the execution?
We’re a couple of stone cold dudes, what makes you think we’d screw it up?  Trust me, it would run like clockwork. No rookie mistakes, no burning time in the vaults and finding SWAT camped in the parking lot. We’d hit that place hard and fast like we meant it, empty out those cash draws and the rest would just be gravy.
Of course I’d go get drunk to celebrate the score and get busted trying to dry hump the mannequin in Macy’s shop window again. Unfortunately at that point I would drop you like a fat girl on prom night to save myself. Sorry bro.
No one treats me like a fat girl on prom. Not again! You hear me, God?!! Ahem… uhhh… Chris, back to you. You've got enough shorts for a collection. Ever thought of pushing that around?
It’s an interesting idea. It really hadn’t crossed my mind that people might actually pay cash money for that stuff.  I think the biggest problem for me would be resisting the urge rewrite everything. I would find it really tough letting it stand as is.  Although I’m damn proud of most of it, there’s some that I’m not.
 What about something longer? Novel-ish?
Like all good procrastinating writers, I’m currently nuts deep in my great masterpiece. Well, I’m about 18,000 words in to a novella about the forbidden love between a boy and his pet turtle. No wait, that’s bollocks. It’s actually about a washed up rock n roll singer who’s just out of jail and trying find his strung out, hooker sister before the Mexican gangster she scammed catches up with her. See it’s a nice family story. The main character is loosely based on the guy who appeared in “The Legend of Johnny Kool”, right here at OOTG.
As an extension of that last question, what's the plan for Chris Leek? Anything beyond the next story?
World domination; as we speak I have sharks with laser beams attached to their heads cruising the world’s oceans ready to do my evil bidding. *strokes cat and laughs manically until overcome by a fit of uncontrollable coughing*
It was always my aim to write much longer, to produce something worthy of being described as a novel.  But I’m not so sure that’s what I want right now.  Thanks to guys like Joe, Tom & Court my stories are starting to find an audience (Isaac & Mike) and I’ve recently sneaked into some cool anthologies, so for now I’m just digging on the short-shorts.
Theme song?
I’ve often pondered what would be the best song for me to walk out on stage to. I did some research by standing behind the drapes with the stereo remote and jumping out on my wife. Debaser by the Pixies seemed to get a reaction, but that might have been something to do with the clown costume I was wearing at the time.

***

Chris Leek, ladies and gentlemen. Quite possibly the last vestige of true manliness. Read his stuff, please. He’s good. I mean it.

Next week—Nik Korpon. This Maryland-based scribe is everything I’m not: handsome, successful, a good husband and father, sober, white and warrantless. Jealous. Soooooo jealous.

Chris Leek lives in Cambridge, England. His work has appeared at Out Of The Gutter, Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, Spinetingler, Thrillers, Killers & Chillers and Near To the Knuckle. He lists his hobbies as drinking Mexican beer, smoking cigarettes and talking about himself in the third person.  If he owes you money, you only have yourself to blame.  http://nevadaroadkill.blogspot.co.uk/