The Horizontal Split by Paul Pinn
(Time Bomb Publishing, 2000, 170 pages www.freewebs.com/paulpinn/)
In my review of Paul Pinn's other novel, The Pariah, I commented on how unrelentingly bleak that story was, but no less entertaining for it. Here is more of the same - from its intriguing dedication to some of the people with mental problems that Pinn (a psychiatric nurse) has encountered over the years, to the genuinely shocking finale (a sudden twist literally in the tail, in the last paragraph!).
The Horizontal Split is an ensemble story dealing mainly with Sarah, a young schizophrenic whose baby has been taken from her by her psychopathic mother and well-meaning but manipulated father. Sarah is convinced her baby is in India and travels there, pursued - separately - by her parents, each with their own reason to find her. Her father hires a discredited psychiatrist who once treated Sarah, who is in turn pursued by a spurned former student.
Pinn draws on his knowledge of psychiatry and also apparent first hand experience of India to tie this - on first examination - loopy plot together in a tight manner. The characters are well drawn and do not descend to stereotyping, which would have been an easy option with so many 'main players' to deal with. Amazingly, the novel is quite short but does not feel rushed or half-developed. I am fully in favour of stories finding their own length and it is to Pinn's credit that he does not attempt to pad out the novel with gumph. It feels tight and compact and above all, works.
As usual, it is a sad state of affairs that writers of Pinn's obvious calibre have to resort to self-publishing in order to make their work available. The Horizontal Split (albeit, paradoxically, in a longer form!) would more than satisfy the thriller crowd who devour Ruth Rendell et al. Sadly, unless they make the effort to access the British small press, they are unlikely to ever get the opportunity.
A damn good read, and well worth checking out the writer's excellent website, where you can order this and his other books.
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© Noel K Hannan 21 July 2001