SHORT SHARP INTERVIEW: KIM NEWMAN

PDB: One great image I have of you is from Channel Four’s old breakfast show.

You’d given a less than positive review of a Brit film and afterwards, when the camera went to the Des Lynam lookalike that presented it, he said’ If it was down to the likes of Kim Newman there’d be no British film industry.’  Off camera you could be heard shouting’ And good riddance! Good riddance!’


What’s the shape of the British film industry today?

KN: I don’t think it’s in any worse shape than at any time since 1929. There have always been sorry-state-of-the-industry worries. In genre terms, it’s livelier than it has been – though maybe with a few too many mockney gangster films and footie thug biographies. I’m still a big Mike Leigh fan.

PDB: There seems to have been speculation about a big budget Hollywood version of your novel Anno Dracula for ages. Any truth in this?

KN: It’s been optioned a couple of times. I did a first draft script once. As it stands, I have the rights back – and have turned down a few offers which I thought weren’t likely to lead to films or TV shows I could endorse (and, frankly, weren’t likely to get made).

At the moment, a producer/studio would have to offer me either a) life-changing money, b) a really interesting director with a track record in expensive but personal films or c) a considerable degree of control and input. None are that likely.

A problem with the book as a film project is that it isn’t the sort of thing that can be done cheaply – it’s a period piece with special effects, a large cast of the sort of characters who need big (ie: star) personalities, and has a lot of background things going on arguably more important than the actual plot.

PDB: Did you really wear a cape to school?

KN: No, I went to a Grammar school with a uniform policy so I wore that. I wore a cape at college and university – a few years before there were goths or even new romantics around to fit in with, and a few years after the Victorian dress-up flower power trend of the 1960s. If there had been other people dressed like me then, I probably would have been contrary and found something else no one would consider wearing.

PDB: What are you thoughts on ebooks and how new technology, including social media, are affecting the worlds of the writer and reader?

KN: Sorry – but this is like the budget or censorship or interest rates. I know it’s important and I do keep track of the issue, but the debate is so excruciatingly boring I’d rather not add to the tedium with more waffle.

PDB: How would you like to write Dr Who? Could you tell us about Time and Relative?

KN: I’d certainly consider it. Time and Relative is a novella, published by Telos Books – who briefly had a license to do Dr Who related fiction outside the BBC’s franchise envelope.

It’s set before the first episode of the series in 1963, during the long cold winter of 1962-3 (which I dimly remember), and is narrated by Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter (Carole Anne Ford on the show). Like a lot of Who characters over the years, she had a great introduction and a lot of potential but wasn’t especially well used in later stories (she was the first of the many women who wound up screaming a lot).

So I got to go back and rethink her a bit, and do a story about an alien teenager in London. It has a monster – living snowmen from a pre-human ice intelligence (they come back in my novella Cold Snap in Secret Files of the Diogenes Club) – and a save-the-world plot, but I was as interested in the viewpoint. It was reasonably well-received.

It was the first of the Telos line, and I did a very rough outline for a later novella (Dimensions in Space, of course) which would do for the last (it was to be a memoir by the Master – which is why he’s set up as a presence in Time and Relative). As it happened, the BBC took back the license when the show was revived, so I didn’t get to write it. I might not have done anyway: when something is well-liked, there’s a temptation to do more but also a worry that you did your best the first time out and shouldn’t try to repeat it for fear of disappointment.

PDB: Your Video Dungeon is one of the best things at Empire Magazine. Is it more difficult to track down undiscovered gems these days than it was when you first started the column?

KN: Actually, it’s much less difficult. The column has been running for a while, so publicists are aware of it and send me plenty of things – though I still do a certain amount of buying and renting movies which would otherwise fall through the cracks. If anything, the problem now is that I have far more films in the to-be-watched dungeon pile than I can a) cover or b) watch. The column has grown to a full page, but I could easily write something three or four times as long.

Unlike most reviewers, I’m not strictly tied to what comes out in the month the issue is cover-dated, but that just means the backlog swells. I occasionally do themed columns – I’ve just done an all-British dungeon – which lets me look at different things. Plus my remit is broad – initially, I was supposed to cover films which didn’t have a theatrical release (I more or less keep to this for new movies) but I’ve expanded to take in a lot of reissue or backlist titles.

PDB: What are you working on at the moment?

KN: I’ve just started writing a short story called ‘The Adventure of the Six Maledictions’, which is one of a series I’ve been doing about Professor Moriarty, narrated by his sidekick Colonel Moran on the assumption that Moran has seen how well Watson is doing with his Holmes memoirs and wants to try something similar. They’re slightly more humorous than my norm.

Also on my desk: I’ve turned in Mysteries of the Diogenes Club, the third in a series of collections for MonkeyBrain, and delivered a draft of a new edition of Nightmare Movies (which is basically the old book with an entirely new one stuck to it covering the last twenty years). I’ve just signed with Titan to reissue the three Anno Dracula novels, in editions which might have new material, and finally put out the collection Johnny Alucard. Plus all the usual reviewing, TV/radio appearances. So, I’m busy.



Kim Newman’s website is here.

His Wikipedia page is here