“…if you remember the fashions of the 1970s, you’ll recall that in winter, chaps wore anoraks, crombies or parkas. Kim wore an opera-cape.”
(Eugene Byrne, “Introduction”, Unforgivable Stories)
I was born in Brixton, London, on July 31st, 1959. My parents, Bryan and Julia Newman, were potters who met at Harrow School of Art in the 1950s. My sister Sasha was born in 1961. In 1966, we moved to Aller, a village in Somerset, and my parents set up Aller Pottery, a studio and shop in a converted farm. My mother died in 2003, but my father still runs the pottery.
I went to a progressive kindergarten and a primary school in Brixton, and then Huish Episcopi County Primary School in Langport, Somerset. In 1970, I passed the eleven plus and went to Dr Morgan’s Grammar School for Boys in Bridgwater – along with Brian Smedley, Eugene Byrne, Dean Skilton, Alex Dunn, Cheryl Morgan and others. In 1973, the education system changed and Morgan’s was amalgamated with two other schools to become Haygrove Comprehensive. I took my O levels there in 1975 and my A levels at Bridgwater College in 1977. I then took an English degree at the University of Sussex, just outside Brighton, graduating in 1980. I have not held down a conventional job.
At school, I got interested in monsters, movies, literature, comics, etc. With Brian, Eugene, Dean, Alex and others – including Rod Jones, Tim Mander, Susannah Hickling, Sally Grieve and many more – I worked on theatre, humour sketches, and various music or comedy groups. I acted in school plays (as Malvolio in Twelfth Night) and with the Bridgwater Youth Theatre, whose director – Tony Collins (one of our teachers) – encouraged us to develop our own material. After university, I moved from Somerset to the London area, but commuted back home to work with what was now called Sheep Worrying Enterprises, who published a magazine, put on plays, arranged music gigs and festivals, etc. Brian and I had a cabaret band, Club Whoopee – for which we wrote a lot of songs.
In the early 1980s, I wrote plays and musicals which were put on at the Bridgwater Arts Centre: Another England, My One Little Murder Can’t Do Any Harm (which introduced the characters of Edwin Winthrop and Catriona Kaye, who still appear in my stories), The Gold Diggers of 1981, Deep South and The Roaring Eighties. Club Whoopee toured extensively, if with little success, and we even cut a track (‘You’re Sort of Okay’) released on a vinyl EP.
In 1982, I sold a review of Last House on the Left to the Monthly Film Bulletin and started working regularly as a film critic. City Limits, the London listings magazine, and Venue, the Bristol equivalent (where Eugene got work), were among my first clients. In 1983, I placed Nightmare Movies with Proteus Books, on the basis of an outline and a sample chapter. Proteus hired me to write more movie books (of which only The Atomic Cinema later came out, much revised, as Millennium Movies aka Apocalypse Movies) which meant I could sign off (stop receiving supplementary benefit). However, the company went broke just after the first edition of Nightmare Movies came out.
After a few fanzine appearances, I sold my first short story to a paying market, ‘Dreamers’ to Interzone. That was reprinted in a paperback collection, which got me an agent (Antony Harwood) and, much later and circuitously, my first novel deal (through editor Robyn Sisman). I met Neil Gaiman at a British Fantasy Society Open Night, and we ended up compiling Ghastly Beyond Belief and placing it with Faith Brooker at Arrow.
Neil and I began to write funny articles for girlie magazines (Neil was doing celebrity interviews for Knave and the like at the time). With Eugene – and also Stefan Jaworzyn and Phil Nutman – we formed the Peace & Love Corporation, and did a lot of comedy writing in the ‘80s, mostly for Knave, Club International, etc., but also the short-lived humour magazine The Truth. Life’s Lottery sort of grows out of a skit Neil and I wrote for Penthouse. We outlined some things that didn’t get finished, including a computer game and a novel which were unrelated but had the same title (Neutrino Junction). With Brian, Eugene and (slightly) Neil, I did write a musical Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock which was put on by Sheep Worrying. With Neil, Stefan and Phil, I wrote some film outlines – and later turned three of them into the novels Bad Dreams and Orgy of the Blood Parasites (originally Bloody Students) and the story ‘Mother Hen’.
I began broadcasting in the mid-1980s, reviewing films, books and plays on BBC Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope (which has evolved into Front Row, Back Row and others). I started doing television in 1986, working briefly as a film reviewer on ITV’s Night Network, and for a longer stint on Channel 4’s breakfast show, The Channel 4 Daily (1989-92). I wrote documentaries for radio and TV, and have appeared on many arts and entertainment programs, including a number of ‘100 Best’ efforts, several higher-minded documentaries (mostly for BBC 4) and the prime-time The One Show. I have, or have had, regular slots on several radio programs: Cinema Two (BBC Radio 2), The Mark Radcliffe Show (BBC Radio 1), The Fred Macaulay Show (BBC Radio Scotland) and Arena (RTE Ireland).
Bloomsbury published a new version of Nightmare Movies in 1988. I have since written and edited or co-edited other non-fiction books. In 1989, I was one of the first people commissioned by Empire magazine, and have appeared in every issue since # 1. I have my own column, ‘Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon’, which regularly places high in the magazine’s reader surveys. The Monthly Film Bulletin folded into Sight & Sound in 1992, and I still work regularly for that. I have contributed to a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. I am a regular in Video Watchdog and had a column in Shivers.
I sold more stories to Interzone, Fantasy Tales and other markets. The Night Mayor, my first novel, placed with Simon & Schuster in 1989. At about that time, David Pringle – the editor of Interzone – was put in charge of Games Workshop’s fiction branch, and he commissioned stories and novels from me, which came out under the name ‘Jack Yeovil’. Further publications are listed in the bibliography.
I have collaborated with Eugene, Paul McAuley, Stephen Jones and others. I have written radio scripts and worked on various film projects. I have contributed to DVD releases with audio commentaries and liner notes. I’ve won some awards (and lost more), been a guest at conventions and film festivals. I have a nephew, Jerome. I live in Islington, London.
Please check the contact page for Information on how to get in touch with Kim regarding work-related queries.