Whenever I come across someone who I grow to regard with respect and affection, I usually end up calling them "hoss". Hoss is an expression we Southerners bestow upon someone who is not necessarily large in stature (think Bonanza's Dan Blocker), but, instead, large in heart and soul.
I've been calling James Newman "Hoss" for a while now; since 2006 in fact. I reckon it's because I feel a true kindredship with the man; we come from similar backgrounds, are both working men and family men, and share a mutual faith in God. I first saw his name on the spine of a book. After being on a self-imposed hiatus from horror writing for 10 years, I was tentatively considering a return to the genre and the first novel I pulled off the shelf was Midnight Rain. I read the author bio on the inside cover of that paperback and was intrigued. He was from North Carolina, so he was a fellow Southerner. That was enough to prod me into turning that first page and begin reading. After I finished, I put that book down (it has since become one of my all-time favorite novels), grinned, and thought I think I can do this again... but can I do it as good as this guy? A couple of days later I sat down and tried... and I've been writing ever since. Later I discovered that James had had a similar experience with my novel Fear years earlier, which inspired him to give horror writing a try. So, in a way, our literary connection was mutually beneficial... even though we didn't know each other personally at that time.
Eventually, we did become good friends, through emails and phone calls and horror conventions. He wrote the introduction to my little collection of extreme horror stories, The Sick Stuff, and I wrote one for the trade paperback edition of Midnight Rain. We shared a room at Hypericon in Nashville and I introduced him to Joe R. Lansdale (who later invited him to lunch... which James graciously declined... the big dummy!). He began calling me Dude and I began calling him Hoss and that's how it has been for going on eight years now.
Then last week I heard about James' unfortunate accident; how a heavy tree limb -- a "widow-maker" the park rangers called it -- had fallen on him while he relaxed at a picnic table during a biking trip with his wife, Glenda, and their two sons. The limb had nearly lived up to its nomenclature, fracturing four vertebrae in his back and fracturing his left arm in multiple places. Truthfully, when I heard about it, I felt sick deep down in my soul. One of the most friendly and humble men I'd ever had the pleasure to know had been dealt a devastating blow. So had his family, although the toll on them had been purely emotional. The Newman family was undoubtedly in for a hard time. There would be loss of work, medical bills to pay, and weeks of physical therapy for the Hoss... and a helluva lot of pain.
Oddly enough, I was dealing with an emotional blow of my own at the same time. While heading to work at 4:30 am on Good Friday, I had collided with a stalled car on the interstate at 60 mph. It was a crash that should have been fatal... should have killed me... but, strangely enough, it hadn't. My car was totaled, but I walked away without a scratch. True, I was grateful for God's intervention, but I still found myself emotionally wounded by the accident. I felt terribly down -- depressed, suffering insomnia, experiencing writer's block, looking at my mortality flat in the face and wondering why I had been spared. Then I heard about James' accident and my pity party stopped dead in its tracks. What right did I have to mope around, feeling sorry for myself, when one of my best friends in the writing community was lying in a hospital bed, experiencing excruciating pain at every little movement?
So I put my personal angst aside and went to work. I began to email and Facebook message every horror author and horror publisher that I knew (and many that I didn't) and began to put something together for the benefit of my friend and his family. Looking back, I believe the Lord delivered me from a potentially fatal car crash because He had things He needed me to do. I believe this is one of them.
And, so, on the week of May 11th through the 17th of 2014, we will be holding "Helping the Hoss: A Benefit Book Auction for James Newman". Dozens of signed books donated by the most talented (and good-hearted) authors of the horror genre (as well as many leading publishers of horror fiction) will be put up for bid in multiple auctions during the course of the week. All proceeds from the sales of these books (minus the shipping charges) will be paid directly to James and his family. I would like to extend a huge "Thanks!" to the folks listed below for responding to my messages and donating the books we will be putting up for auction. All of them know, love, and respect the Hoss, and acted swiftly, compassionately, and without a moment's hesitation to make this benefit possible.
Joe R. Lansdale
Robert R. McCammon
F. Paul Wilson
Kealan Patrick Burke
John R. Little
Michael Wilson/ Permuted Press
Paul Goblirsch / Thunderstorm Books
Mark Allan Gunnells
Richard Chizmar / Cemetery Dance Publications
Roy Robbins / Bad Moon Books
Bill Schafer / Subterranean Press
Charles Day / Evil Jester Press
Brian J. Hatcher
David Niall Wilson
Chris Morey / Dark Regions Press
James A. Moore
Mind you, this is an incomplete list. I haven't yet heard from half of those I sent messages to and believe that I will before May 11th rolls around. For all you readers and books collectors out there, this would be an excellent opportunity to beef up your bookshelves with autographed books by your favorite horror authors, as well as help a good man and his family make it through a very difficult time.
I urge you to join us on the week of May 11-17 for this benefit book auction and help the Hoss.