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The Pariah by Paul Pinn
(Time Bomb Publishing, 2001, 5.99, 278 pages; ISBN 0-9539300-0-9;

It is indicative of the sad state of British mainstream publishing when a writer is forced, or even just inclined, to self-publish a fine, imaginative and accessible thriller such as Paul Pinn's The Pariah.

While I am a great supporter of independent publishing and do not in any way subscribe to the belief that it is all vanity projects by the, err, 'talent-challenged', you really have to call into question the decisions made by editors when cover scanthey reject fine books like this one. I am of course assuming that Paul has taken the time-honoured route of having his book roundly rejected by all and sundry before refusing to consign it to the bottom of the wardrobe or even worse, the waste paper bin. I wonder how many great novels we are deprived of in this way, whose writers do not have the drive or skills or resources to go it alone? It is a brave decision to publish your own book.

The Pariah is a finely crafted supernatural thriller told from the perspective of a ruthless psychotic who can infiltrate people's minds, even from the other end of the country, and influence behaviour. He has a deep vendetta against a washed-up MI6 agent called McKoy, and was instrumental in the man's downfall. Now he is back to finish the job.

The story moves effortlessly from the bleak South Wales village where McKoy has sought refuge and found solace in the arms of tart-with-a-heart Debbie, to London where the police are investigating a bizarre murder that Paymer is responsible for. Pinn expertly handles the potentially unwieldy concept of using Paymer as the first person narrator, and makes it work. The overall effect is of a writer at home with his subject matter - psychology, police procedural, the machinations of the intelligence services - and in control of his prose. The story accelerates toward a climax with a bleak twist in the tale, which I will obviously not spoil.

Yes, this is a bleak book and if you are after sunshine and smiles, look elsewhere. The oppressive nature of Welsh weather weighs heavy on the early part of the book as McKoy attempts to deal with his relationship with Debbie in tandem with Paymer's reappearance inside his head, and this oppression permeates the rest of the story, with impressive results. Not a book for those taking any kind of anti-depressants, but for the rest of you, highly recommended. You can order it via the writer's own website.

Review by Noel K Hannan.

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© Noel K Hannan 31 March 2001