When You’re Growing Up In A Small Town/ You Hate It And You Want To Get Out.’ Lou Reed.
If we go by films, books and television – Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, The Killer Inside Me, Lolita, Red Rock West, er, The League Of Gentlemen – then small towns are dark and sinister places. Claustrophobic and repressive, they may be much more suited to noir than the bright lights of the big city with its limitless possibilities. Noir is for losers, after all.
Maggie Greenwald’s cracking film version of Jim Thompson’s small-town noir novel ‘The Kill –Off’, for example, starts with a shot of dozens of intersecting telephone lines buzzing with gossip and small-town prattle, crisscrossing and trapping you. Thompson’s novel is just as smothering with its multiple POVs and every character having a finger in someone else’s dirty pie.
Which brings us to Tommy Bennett, the protagonist of my books Last Year’s Man and Man Of The World. Tommy is a small town escapee who left Seatown – ‘ a one-whore-town’ on the north east coast of England – for a brighter and better life in London. As a hit man.
Seatown has more than a passing resemblance to my home town of Hartlepool, and in my youth I remember regularly encountering people who seemed to have once headed off to pastures new and lived colourful lives only return to their home town – inexplicably hanging around the same old joints with the same old faces and listening to the same old music.
Which is what Tommy Bennett does in Last Year’s Man. He heads back to Seatown with his tail between his legs. By the time we get to the book’s sequel, Man Of The World, Tommy is finding it hard to turn over a new leaf as those old faces, places and habits keep dragging him back like an umbilical cord tied tight around his neck. And then it’s time to break free.
Paul D. Brazill’s books include Man Of The World, Last Year’s Man and Gumshoe Blues. He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, Polish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime.