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Paul Haines

Brimstone Press (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-9805677-1-7

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Paul Haines’ third collection of stories, The Last Days of Kali Yuga, was recently launched at Swancon Thirty Six in Perth. I had the pleasure of attending the launch and hearing Haines read from his story “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burned”. Having recently read the author’s earlier collection, Slice of Life, I was eager to get my hands on this latest collection from Perth-based Brimstome Press, and it didn’t disappoint. The Last Days of Kali Yuga firmly establishes Haines as one of Australia’s best horror writers (yes, I know he’s from New Zealand originally).

Haines warned me when he signed my copy of this book that the material was dark and perhaps disturbing in nature. I guess it says as much about me as it does of him, but I didn’t find anything particularly objectionable in these pages, although it’s true that some stories were very provocative. The writer Haines reminds me of most is M. John Harrison, whose work is similarly sardonic and sometimes vicious. A number of recurrent themes run through many of Haines’ stories, including but not limited to: the pressures and angst of urban living; sexual frustration and jealousy; and the cycle of seemingly inevitable violence. The author pulls few, if any, punches in his depiction of the more sordid side of life, and he keeps us close to the edge as readers. William S. Burroughs once said that ‘writing should have the immediacy and danger of bullfighting’; Paul Haines is certainly a writer whose work fits that bill.

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Paul Haines

The Mayne Press (2009)

ISBN: 978 0 9806159 0 6

Reviewed by Simon Petrie, May 2010

A great many scurrilous, degrading, and downright libellous things have been written about Paul Haines, most of them by Haines himself. Suffice it to say that if Paul Haines, the writer, is guilty of merely one-tenth the activities attributed to Paul Haines, the character, then the man should be locked away, without prospect of parole, and provided solely with bread, stale cheese, water, and pencil and paper.

“Slice of Life”, the story, is appropriately the first tale within Slice of Life, the collection. It’s an effectively unsettling introduction to Haines’ (hopefully) fictional-autobiographic style, and the charming, urbane, psychotic character that the author puts forward as his alter ego. The danger of reading Haines’ stories in this vein is that the reader can come perilously close to accepting cannibalism, sexual sadism, or any of a myriad other vices as representing innately reasonable behaviour – because, in the context of Haines’ stories, this is very much the category such activity falls into. If iniquity needs a poster child (and I’m not sure, in this day and age, that it does), then the protagonist in stories such as “Slice of Life” will do just nicely, thank you.

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