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.


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