Necessary Evil Press, 2011, Signed & Limited, $45.00, 235pp
Artwork by Alex McVey
Introduction by Ray Garton
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
If you want to know what it’s like to be a horror writer, then you need to read Animosity by James Newman (author of Midnight Train and The Wicked), plus its introduction by Ray Garton. Though most authors won’t experience the trauma Ray Garton did, or the lead character in Animosity does when a child is found murdered in his neighborhood, I guarantee you’ll get a strange look from the person standing in front of you when the same old question is asked and you answer it.
“You’re an author, huh? What do you write?”
“I write horror short stories and novels.”
You would think by now that penning horror stories and novels would be an acceptable way to make a living, what with Stephen King having been at it for thirty-five years. I can remember The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby and The Other hitting the bestseller lists when they were first published during the seventies.
Someone was definitely buying them and someone had to have written them for the books to have existed. I wonder if William Peter Blatty and Ira Levine and Thomas Tryon got strange looks when they went to the bank to deposit their big royalty checks.
You can write anything you want, except for horror and erotica, and be accepted by the people in your neighborhood. There’s a reason why Thomas Harris (the author of Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal) keeps such a low profile and refuses to do interviews or have his picture taken. People, even the normal ones, are as crazy as bed bugs. They sometimes look for anything they can use in order to put another person down … especially with regards to writers of horror fiction. Stephen King has won all kinds of awards and is probably worth a hundred million dollars or more, yet the literary community pans his fiction like there’s no tomorrow.
Because even today what King writes is still basically horror.
Though I’m small time, I inevitably will get that peculiar look from someone every now and again, even from writers of other genres. I have a friend at work who’s a writer of thrillers. He will happily read any suspense or thriller fiction I write, but he strangely draws the line at my horror stories. Why? I don’t think even he has an answer to the question. I believe it’s something buried deep inside the subconscious and people aren’t even aware it’s there, until the right circumstances arise.
In Animosity, the lead character of Andrew Holland is a bestselling writer of horror fiction, and he finds out rather quickly how thin the veil of decency and neighborly love is when he happens upon the body of an eleven-year-old girl who’s been raped and strangled. It doesn’t matter that Andy has known his neighbors for years. Everything changes for the worse the moment he reports the crime to the police.
Of course, it doesn’t help matters that Andy was arrested and served time for statuary rape when he was twenty. He had a one-night stand with a girl he met on the campus of his college, but the female turned out to be sixteen years old. Let’s face it, a lot of sixteen year olds look eighteen or older. Unless you ask for a drivers license, you may not discover their age until it’s too late to do anything but pray for mercy.
Just ask Hank Mooney in the hit Showtime television series, Californication. He got himself into the same mess.
Once Andy’s good neighbors get wind of the arrest record, they quickly add two plus two and get five. They assume because of the arrest record and the fact he writes strange stuff, Andy must also be the murderer of the young girl. It doesn’t matter if the local police don’t consider him a suspect in the crime, the neighbors have their own beliefs and feelings about the present circumstances. Everybody else must be wrong. Needless to say, they start harassing Andy with small things at first like writing names on his front door, banging up his mailbox, slashing the tires on his SUV, and killing his dog. I bet Dean Koontz would’ve gone berserk if someone hurt his dog. Gradually, everything escalates to where Andy has to fight for his life and resort to murder in order to save those he loves.
That’s a neighborhood I want to stay a hundred miles away from.
Yeah, Andy’s once caring neighbors show him what real horror is … what monsters human beings can turn into with little provocation. I mean how many good Germans turned into Nazis during World War II? Look at what we did to the Japanese living in California during the same war. Man has a long history of intolerance. It doesn’t take much for him to bust a cap and start shooting randomly at anybody who moves.
It’s the last page of Chapter Thirty-three in Animosity, however, that really shakes your faith in mankind and starts you pondering on the general relationships you have with people and what they’re really thinking in the darkest regions of their minds. Sometimes no reason is needed to hurt another, other than the fact they’re in some way different.
Animosity by James Newman is certainly a novel every potential horror writer should read before the journey’s begun. The book might cause you to take a closer look at your chosen endeavor and to decide another occupation would be better. The regular readers out there will want to read this book so they can get a better perspective of the horror that lies just beneath the smiles of friendliness they get from their friends and neighbors. It’s a type of horror I find infinitely more frightening that anything I could read in a novel. Vampires, zombies and ghosts don’t scare me, but regular people do.
Man’s inhumanity to his fellow brother.
Yeah, that’s what scares me. It certainly isn’t the horror fiction I write, but the reality of what life is and how quickly it can change on you in a heartbeat.
Author, James Newman, connected with something intrinsic in all of us with his novel about a writer who has to fight for his life because of the prejudices held unconsciously by his neighbors. For that I’m eternally grateful. It doesn’t hurt that Animosity is also a damn good read! This should become a mandatory read for all new horror writers.