Fans can now pick up a brand-new edition of the critically acclaimed novel Jago from Titan Books and other major retailers. We recently chatted with author Kim Newman about his horror novel and what awaits readers around that next dark corner.
AMANDA DYAR: For those who haven’t checked out the book yet–can you tell us briefly about the story and what horror fans have to look forward to?
KIM NEWMAN: It’s about weird things happening in an English village, focused on a cult led by a charismatic, would-be messiah character with enormous psychic powers.
AMANDA DYAR: What were your inspirations for your new novel Jago?
KIM: It’s not actually new, but a reissue – it was my third published novel under my own name, appearing in 1991. It was the first novel I began writing, though it changed from its beginnings, and a sub-plot spun off to become my first novel The Night Mayor, and I made several starts on it from 1980 onwards. I’d read a few American small-town-affected-by-large-scale-supernatural-menace novels – Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story were the big beasts in the form, though I think the first I came across was Ray Russell’s Incubus; I also really like Charles L. Grant’s The Nestling, and can see the roots of the form in Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place. I wanted to try something like that with a British village setting – if Salem’s Lot is Dracula comes to Peyton Place, my first thought for Jago was the Apocalypse comes to The Archers. At that time, I’d not read John Cowper Powys’ A Glastonbury Romance, which might also be floating around in Jago’s DNA, not least because it’s the major Somerset novel. While I was writing the book, Twin Peaks was on the air – another key text in community horror; I changed the name of my monstrous biker ghost character from Badmouth Bob to Badmouth Ben at the last minute to avoid comparison with the show’s monster Killer Bob.
The cult in the book is based on a 19th century Somerset religious community, the Agapemone – when I was in the Bridgwater Youth Theatre, a local writer called Charles Mander published a non-fiction book about it and wrote a play based on the case, which was banned by the Principal of Bridgwater College; later, when I was with the Sheep Worrying Arts Collective in 1980, we staged the play. Much of the detail about the cult comes from Charles’ work, though I looked at the Manson Family, the beginnings of Scientology, the Moonies and other fringe religious groups too. Besides being a community transformed by monstrousness novel, it’s also a psychic spy book – there were a bunch of things like John Farris’ The Fury (also a Brian De Palma film), King’s Firestarter and David Cronenberg’s Scanners about in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s that contributed to this, though I read a paperback about Soviet ESP espionage experiments that fed into this sub-plot.
AMANDA: Do you enjoy writing horror themed novels like Jago over other genres?
KIM: It’s a while since I’ve written anything as all-out horror as Jago; certainly, there’s a gloves-off feel to it that comes from me being younger and more annoyed – though it came out in 1991, it feels like an ‘80s novel to me. That large canvas is appealing, as well as the opportunity for mass carnage and big-scale psychedelic rock n roll weirdness. I enjoy the characters of the book; I keep meaning to go back to some of them. I did put in a few elements that now link it to my Diogenes Club series.
AMANDA: What makes Jago stand out above other horror novels today?
KIM: Not for me to say. It’s the sort of big genre book that has become thin on the ground lately – only King seems to be still writing in this mode; maybe the reissue will remind people that the mode still works.
AMANDA: What other projects do you have lined up for the future?
KIM: Next out from Titan is Johnny Alucard, the fourth book in the Anno Dracula series – I’ve been working on that on and off for fifteen years, and now it’s finally done. After that, the next new novel will be An English Ghost Story, which returns to the Somerset of Jago but in a different mood; it’s about a few characters in a haunted house rather than a large cast, and it’s a psychological Gothic rather than a splatter apocalypse.
To learn more, visit the official Titan Books website.
Paul, a young academic composing a thesis about the end of the world, and his girlfriend Hazel, a potter, have come to the tiny English village of Alder for the summer. Their idea of a rural retreat gradually sours as the laws of nature begin to break down around them. The village, swollen by an annual rock festival of cataclysmic proportions, prepares to reap a harvest of horror. A brand-new edition of the critically acclaimed novel.
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