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By James Whittington, Monday 13th June 2011
Respected journalist, author and all-round nice guy Kim Newman is best known for his vast knowledge of movies of the fantastical variety, faultless article writing and enlightening reviews. His brilliant and critically acclaimed novel Anno Dracula has just been re-released by Titan in a special updated edition so I thought it was time to chat to one the finest writers around.
HC: Do you recall the first movie that really caught your imagination?
KN: The first film I was taken to see at the cinema was The First Men In The Moon, the Ray Harryhausen-Nigel Kneale-HG Wells picture. I was four or five. I don't think I've ever got over it. My younger sister had a screaming fit a few minutes into the film and we had to leave the cinema, so I nagged my parents relentlessly about going back without her to see the end.
HC: How did you get your first big writing break?
KN: I sent some sample reviews into the Monthly Film Bulletin. One of them was a piece on Last House On The Left, which I’d seen at the NFT, and it happened they had an interview with Wes Craven on hand, so they actually ran the sample review (this is very rare) and then started commissioning reviews from me. The first thing they sent me to see was Zombie Child (aka The Child), but the review which probably got me noticed was The Evil Dead. This was in 1982.
HC: You’ve become renowned as being an expert on cult cinema, does this moniker ever stop you getting work reviewing more mainstream movies?
KN: I cover whatever I’m sent to. I have a reputation for fast turnarounds, so I often get assigned films which show very close to magazine deadlines. I’m seldom sent to urban dance pictures.
HC: You’ve written many short stories, do you have a personal favourite?
KN: Dull answer, but I’m partial to almost all my old (and new) stories. I wish I had time to write more of them.
HC: Your Anno Dracula book has just been re-released and to much acclaim; how did this edition come about?
KN: Titan approached me about the rights to the series, which was out of print, and I was disposed to their ideas about the books. I’ve been extremely pleased with what they’ve done in the manner of presentation, publicity and going the extra distance to make this the edition that long-time fans of the books want while making it available again to a mass market.
HC: Were you tempted to re-write any of it?
KN: I fixed a few glitches that had slipped through years of editors, proof-readers and translators, but otherwise it’s what it always was. Re-reading it, I didn’t cringe too much. I’ve added some footnotes, to highlight a few things.
HC: This new edition contains samples from a movie script version of the story, what happened to that project?
KN: What happened to most movie projects – it didn’t get made. I should say it was a very rough first draft screenplay. I’d have changed things more if I’d have stayed on and done more refinements.
HC: If a movie did become a reality who would you have playing the lead roles?
KN: A problem with this game is that Geneviève, the heroine, is four hundred years old but looks sixteen – so every time you think of an actress who might be right, she’s too old by the time the film gets made (by the time you read this, Emma Watson will be playing grandmothers). So, unless it gets greenlit in the window before Saoirse Ronan grows up, Geneviève would probably have to be an unknown. I’d love to see some sort of computer-generated Bela Lugosi/Christopher Lee hybrid as Dracula in the finale, or maybe Gary Oldman.
HC: You’ve got other novels due for release over the next few months, can you tell us about them?
KN: First up is The Hound of the d’Urbervilles: The Crime-Book of Professor Moriarty, which is presented as the memoirs of Colonel Sebastian Moran, who was Moriarty’s number two man in the Conan Doyle stories. I have him try to copy Dr Watson by writing memoirs of the many crimes Moriarty and he committed or were involved in. It’s darkly funny, and takes in some other Victorian literary characters. Then I have to work on new editions of the extant Anno Dracula sequels, The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha, and finish the fourth book in the series, Johnny Alucard.
HC: What’s your opinion of horror cinema at the moment? Is it in good health?
KN: Bloomsbury have just published a new edition of my book about contemporary horror, Nightmare Movies. The last edition came out in 1988, and ended on a gloomy note since horror seemed to be in the doldrums then. I’m more enthusiastic now, which isn’t to say I wouldn’t be happy not to see another chained-up-and-tortured movie.
HC: Which new writers an directors are making you sit up and take notice at the moment?
KN: Of the current crop, I especially like Larry Fessenden (Wendigo), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Kairo), Larry Blamire, Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), Guillermo del Toro and Ti West (House of the Dead). In Britain, I think Tom Shankland, Jake West, Lawrence Gough, Rob Green and several others working on low budgets are showing a lot of promise.
HC: Are you working on any other projects?
KN: See above, re: novels. I’ve a few other things percolating – a ghost story and a school story, for instance – and some nebulous script things that might be interesting. I’m pretty much booked up for the rest of the year.
HC: Kim Newman, thank you very much.
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