PDB: Can you pitch your latest book in 25 words or less?
Aging Beauty queen The White Flamingo hires heroin-addicted P.I Joe Dylan to investigate a Ripper copycat killer in vice-riddled Fun City.
PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?
I’m reading, watching and listening to stuff generally produced in the last century. I don’t keep up to date with any new television series although my friends tell me I’m missing out on a lot of great stuff. Movie-wise I’m catching up on some old French noir titles and also some Korean and Chinese crime movies. Music-wise I’m entrenched with 60’s 70’s and 90’s tracks. Television, Lou Reed and the Velvets, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Luke Haines, The’ Faith Healers. Book-wise James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss made a big impact when I found a copy in a dusty second-hand bookstore last December. The latest volume of William Burrough’s letters Rub out the Words I keep coming back to. For a pure pulp fun thriller fix James Hadley Chase hits the spot. I reread Bukowski probably too much for my health.
PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?
Nope, not for me it isn’t. Nor can I be an objective watcher of movies, television, animation or an objective listener of music. If I watch an animation movie I’ll break down the plot – huge amounts are money are spent on each frame so each frame is essential. Good way to learn plot is to watch animation or read comic books. I learned a lot from Herge. In music I’ll wonder what guitar pedal is being used and what chemical the lead singer is using while delivering an acceptance speech. I’m a vulture picking out every trick and technique across all media. But occasionally, very occasionally, I’ll lose myself a bit and ‘go with the flow’ when I know a great director or writer is at the wheel I enjoy the ride because you never know where they are going. There is no real sense of audience in much of what they do. The audience /reader comes along for the ride for the sheer hell of it rather than being led by the hand and promised there’s a house made of candy at the end of the forest. “The woods are full of wardens” Kerouac once wrote. The greatest writer’s trick in his toolbox is to fool readers and other writers by switching direction along the trail to that sugar-coated cottage. Take me somewhere strange. I like it.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
Yes. I co-wrote a television series that has yet to be marketed and have been rehearsing a comic play of the same name – The Natives – about expat English teachers working in Asia. I’ve also tried my hand at directing but am not really energetic enough to fill that role. Directing is tough. Give me a blank page any day. I enjoy writing for the screen or stage but acting and directing is tough, although I had some training in college.
PDB: How much research goes into each book?
Well, I’ve written two books based around the Whitechapel murders of 1888, so a hell of a lot of historic research went into that. And I mean HELL! The book I’m just finishing The Black Rose part four in the Joe Dylan detective series features s a gypsy community in England so I had to learn some of the language and codes of living of the travelling community, but I had a lot of that already as a Romany gypsy community lived near to where I grew up. There’s also a drug deal involved so I had to research that thoroughly, not by taking the stuff, by asking what’s on the market and prices etc. But research for me is generally just living, hitting the concrete, bars, galleries, meeting new people, especially other artists and writers. I went back to London last October and spent days walking the city. A lot of material comes from those days walking. Dreams help too. Not sure if that is research. Not sure what it is. But it helps open up a novel. If you are really working on a book it’s on your mind the second you fall asleep and you can get entire scenes during sleep. You wake up and the alpha brain waves are flowing. The best time to write is the morning or the middle of the night. It’s essential to have a notepad near the bed at all times and obviously a notebook with you as you walk around any city in the world.
PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?
I truly believe word of mouth is the most powerful tool. In a small but thriving artistic community like where I live in Bangkok I would advise writers to go to art galleries, reading events, meet people and be friendly but not overbearing. Social media is good up to a point and I enjoy using it and it has helped sell more than a few books. The down side is that writers tend to over-use or abuse it. Social media is a wonderful tool that I try to use sparingly rather than tweet like a budgerigar on amphetamine. Facebook is a bit addictive. Like most addictive substances its a good slave but a bad master. Use it don’t abuse it, kids.
PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?
My publishing house Spanking Pulp Press has a new website to be launched soon and about twenty pulp fiction thrillers in the pipeline. I have two of my novels coming out next month. One called Itchy Park with Blood Moon Press in Canada. And The Black Rose with Spanking Pulp Press. I have another two novellas coming out one as a double book with John Brunni – Undead cargo. The other is about lizards taking over a city and is called predictably enough Lizard City. Plus editing and hosting reading / signing events. A lot on the schedule but always have time to chat with Paul D. Brazil. Cheers, mate.
Bio: JAMES A. NEWMAN began writing fiction when he came out of rehab. He was addicted to pulp fiction. There was no cure. Before that he played guitar and sang in neu-gazer bands in London. Newman moved to Bangkok in the year 2001 and began writing fiction. He lived in ten-dollar hotel rooms and survived on chemical whiskey and raw luck. Newman has published over fifty short stories in various publications all over the world; most recently for Big Pulp Magazine. He has been included in many anthologies. His novel BANGKOK EXPRESS appeared in 2010. The sequel RED NIGHT ZONE was published shortly after. His latest novel THE WHITE FLAMINGO has hovered around the Amazon crime Noir charts peaking at the top spot since its release in July last year. He has been nominated for two awards but won neither.