THE SCIENCE OF PAUL is a fine debut novel by Aaron Philip Clark, published by New Pulp Press. The Paul of the title, and the narrator, is Paul Little, an ex-con and small-time criminal in Philadelphia who has to go back to his childhood home in North Carolina to bury his beloved grandfather who raised him. Once he returns to the city, Paul feels the urge to get out of the rackets, leave Philadelphia for good, and live a peaceful existence on his grandfather’s farm.
That’s an admirable goal, of course, but we all know it’s not going to be that easy in a noir novel, and sure enough, Paul finds himself drawn into a dangerous and complicated situation before he can make his escape from his old life. In classic fashion, Paul tries to do the right thing, but things keep taking turns for the worse anyway.
Clark writes very well, in prose that manages to be elegant yet lean and hardboiled at the same time. The novel is written in present tense, a technique I’m not all that fond of in fiction, but a skilled author can make it work and Clark does that here. He also comes up with a good ending and a great final line.
THE SCIENCE OF PAUL is more than a promising debut, it’s a very good novel in its own right and another winner for New Pulp Press. Recommended.