Monday, September 22, 2014

Review of James Newman's Animosity

Below is a review of James Newman's novel ANIMOSITY that originally appeared in Splatterpunk #5. After the review is a breif interview I recently conducted with the man himself.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if all of your neighbors turned on you for something you had nothing to do with? Seems impossible, right?

Not after you read James Newman’s ANIMOSITY.

Andrew Holland is a bestselling horror author recently divorced and living on the homey street of Poinsettia Lane, the kind of place where the neighbors wave when you walk by and enjoy a quick bit of chit chat. They all know about their celebrity horror writer neighbor, though most of them claim not to read that “horror stuff”. When Andy comes across a murdered child while taking his dog for a walk, he finds himself the talk of the neighborhood. He writes that horror stuff, you know.

Though the police acquit Andy of any wrong doing, his neighbors begin to give him the stink eye. He’s warned that he should leave, but he’s done nothing wrong. Then he gets a threatening phone call and his car is vandalized and he finds himself in the middle of a nightmare.

Hands down, this was one of the most engaging books I’ve read in a long time. With breakneck pacing, a razor sharp plot, and a protagonist you care desperately for, you have the makings for something that goes far beyond the realms of mere entertainment. ANIMOSITY jumps out of the pages and into your mind like witnessing a true-to-life nightmare. You’re powerless to intervene, no matter how much you want to, so all you can do is read on and hope someone—anyone!—comes to their senses. But we humans are strange beasts, are we not?

This book will be especially adored by horror authors, not so much because of the horrific elements, but due to what Andy deals with and how he is perceived because of his profession. That being said, this one is for any fan of horror, mystery, or thriller yarns, but I think it’s so good that everyone should read it.


ANIMOSITY is a story about a horror author who finds himself ostracized in large part due to the genre he writes in. Those of us who enjoy dipping our toes into the dark side have, at one time or another, dealt with the question of “why horror?” Did personal experiences influence the creation of this novel?

Not really, at least not to the degree of the hell that my protagonist goes through in the book.  I guess you could say, though, that what happens to Andy Holland is a very exaggerated account of what we’ve all experienced at some point – we’ve all seen folks turn their noses up whenever they learn what kind of stuff we write or the kind of books and movies we love to read and watch.  There are always those who think that, just because you’re a horror fan, you must be obsessed with death and gore.  Surely you’re a little bit “weird”!

Thank God, though, my love for the genre hasn’t put my life in danger.  Yet.
ANIMOSITY  is masterfully paced and it was clear to me that it would make one hell of a good movie if treated right. Have you considered film options or had any interest in adapting the manuscript into a screenplay?

Thanks so much, Robert.  I’m biased, of course, but I agree -- wouldn’t it make a killer movie?!  There are only a few people who know about this, but it has been optioned for film a couple times.  Several years ago Mark Steensland and Rick Hautala (R.I.P., old buddy) tried to get a movie made.  They wrote a screenplay adaptation of ANIMOSITY and pitched it around, but unfortunately nothing came of it.  Their screenplay was fantastic, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with it.  Don’t tell anybody, but when I was polishing up the manuscript a bit for Permuted Press’s recent paperback/digital release I even stole a really cool scene (with Mark’s permission) that I wished I’d thought of the first time around.  I won’t tell you which one, exactly, but let’s just say that in the slightly revised edition Andy gets in a good lick when the situation starts really getting out of hand. 

It goes without saying that I would have loved to see a big Hollywood studio pick up that project (actually, I think a good indie company would have been even better as far as handling the material the right way).  I wanted to see it happen for Mark and Rick as much as I wanted it to happen for me . . . OK, almost as much.  (laughs)
It’s no secret that you’ve recently written a novel with Mark Allen Gunnells, whose work I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Is there anything you can say about that book and its future publication? If not (‘cause I know how hush-hush projects can be before the ink’s dry), could you give us even the smallest hint of what the story is about or how you and Mark joined forces on this one?

I can’t say anything yet, as the publisher has asked us not to until the cover art is done, at which point they’ll make a big announcement.  Last I heard, that should happen around the end of the year.  I will tell you this:  fans of coming-of-age novels like my own MIDNIGHT RAIN and Mark’s THE SUMMER OF WINTERS are gonna be pleased.  This one should put a smile on the faces of werewolf fans as well.

I’m really proud of this story, and can’t wait for my readers to get their hands on it.  Mark and I made a great team, if I do say so myself, and our styles gelled very nicely.   

WIDOWMAKERS is a brand spanking new anthology to help you and your family after an incident with a massive tree limb that left you with a laundry list of injuries. FANGORIA published a great interview catching us up on how things have been now that some time has passed, but there’s one question I wanted to ask in the wake of this whole ordeal: Do you prefer your books in dead tree or digital format?

First of all, I have to say how grateful I am for what you guys have done for me.  I still have a hard time believing that this was all for ME.  The genre is full of such amazing people (it really makes you wonder where that “weird” thing is coming from that I mentioned earlier, doesn’t it?  ‘Cause “horror people” are the sweetest, most generous souls I’ve ever met).

To answer your question, though – that’s an easy one.  I very much prefer the print format.  Although I understand why folks like them, I’ve never cared at all for e-books.  Just a personal preference.  I like the look, the feel, even the smell of a book.  I don’t even like to read on a computer screen, and will more often than not print out the work of other writers when I’m asked for a blurb, etc. (as was the case with your own kick-ass novella, SALPSAN, not too long ago).

For the record, I’ve always preferred the “dead tree” format.  And not just after my accident.  I’m not a vindictive kinda guy, despite the stuff I said in the WIDOWMAKERS intro, when I was pissed -off.  (laughs)

What does the future hold for James Newman? Anything coming up or recently released that you would like to share?

Things are kinda slow right now as far as new releases, other than the collaboration with Mark we discussed earlier.  But I promise I’m working on that!  I have a few things on my plate that I’m pretty excited about.
My first nonfiction book was published earlier this year: 666 HAIR-RAISING HORROR MOVIE TRIVIA QUESTIONS. I'd like more folks to know about that one, since it's kinda "outside the box" for me, if you will. And very soon a handful of my back titles will be available in digital format from Cemetery Dance Publications: OLDEN, THE FORUM, PEOPLE ARE STRANGE, and DEATH SONGS FROM THE NAKED MAN. The last one's another collaboration, this time with Donn Gash, a fellow I've been friends withfor over 25 years now. Another one I wrote with Donn, an erotic horror novella called LOVE BITES, is on the way via e-book as well. Details to come!

Thanks for taking the time for this interview, James! It was a pleasure. I suggest that everyone check out Mr. Newman's books if you haven't done so yet. There are links embedded in the book titles above. Also, consider purchasing a copy of WIDOWMAKERS, a great collection of fiction for a great cause.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rediscovering Music in the 21st Century

I've always been a fan of the sonic pleasure of music. I was turned onto music by the sounds of the rock 'n' roll and oldies I heard growing up. As a youngster following the cues of my misguided peers I was swept up in time-lost fads like Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. I find it hard to believe that I liked that tripe, but kids will be kids. Put a shiny enough wrapper on the so-called rapper and you got kids dancing like little fools to the beat of something that wouldn't, couldn't last. That's okay. In the long run, that awful music planted the seed that would begin to sprout at the moment I heard bands like Metallica and Guns 'N' Roses, and eventually the seedling would thrive.

I was a music fiend in the 90s with a penchant toward heavy metal, but I didn't shy away from twangy country, blues, bubblegum 60s pop, industrial, classical and whatever else I could get my hands on. Music was fun and being a guitar player caused me to open my mind and travel down avenues I would have scoffed at otherwise.

In time, though, my tastes for modern music dwindled. The bands I'd grown to love began putting out terrible records and the fresh crop of rock and metal bands sounded like they were playing guitars with broken strings and crooning to the contents of an outhouse. I guess that's a nice way of saying it sounded like shit.

I dropped out of the rat race for decent new music. In the early 2000s I regressed, searching for the roots of the music I so loved, and I found it squarely in the 50s and 60s. It's all there. In many ways you could call those two eras the very blueprints for all good music that has come since. All you have to do is listen close enough. Consider "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets. If you close your eyes and listen to the guitar riffs, you can hear some of the very seeds of what would eventually, through harder rockin' bands in the 60s and 70s, become metal. It's all there. I listened for several years wondering how the hell people found the tolerance for the crap that was being foisted upon us at the time.

Now I'm completely removed from modern music. I can hardly listen to the radio without a gag reflex. I found something in artists like Amy Winehouse and Muse, Mastodon and The Black Keys, but there is a realization culminating in my mind that perhaps I'm just getting old enough to bitch about how awful modern music is. Maybe. I mean, there have always been fads that were less than appealing (I figure every generation has its "disco" that, for the most part, is better left in the dustbin of history).

After I burned out on the oldies I went back to my own roots (no, not Vanilla Ice, those were seeds). I delved into metal music and I haven't looked back. I decided to try out some newer bands and newer albums from bands I used to love. Two albums I have been enamored with are SUPER COLLIDER by Megadeth and INFLIKTED  by Cavalera Conspiracy.

The Megadeth album is infectious. It harkens back to CRYPTIC WRITINGS and COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION. I stopped listening to new Megadeth music after the steaming pile that was RISK. After all these years I am excited to hear good music from a band that I had admired so much in my teenage years.

As for Cavalera Conspiracy's INFLIKTED, this is the album Sepultura should have produced in the wake of CHAOS AD, which so happens to be one of my favorite heavy metal albums ever. It's good to hear the result of Max and Igor Cavalera burying the hatchet. I've been listening to this one at least once every day for almost two weeks now. They have a second album that has been calling to me and they are in production of a third. I hope they're as good as INFLIKTED.

There are always good tunes to be found, even if I have to tap old resources. I have a lot to choose from.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Like Ants on a Carcass

My latest story "Like Ants on a Carcass" is available to read for FREE at Eldritch Press.

I wrote this tale a few years ago during the recession. I'd heard two interesting stories about people taking advantage of others who had offered something for free. In one case it was an empty house like the one in the story. The guy who bought the house had hauled some of the contents outside and offered them for free. A neighbor was standing outside talking to the new homeowner when some guy takes a shovel from the neighbor's house and pilfers a plant, roots and all, from the front yard of the house with the free stuff. I thought that was pretty bad, and I figured I could take that kind of behavior to the next level, so I did. Have a read. I hope you enjoy it.