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Odd Man Out Kindle Edition
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The opening chapters of James Newman’s short novel Odd Man Out (2016; 150 pp.) contains the same kind of suspense and creates the same feeling of helplessness as does Hitchcock’s classic scene as readers begin learning the story of Wesley Westmore. All of the signs of turmoil are there. The story is narrated by Dennis Munce looking back on events from 1989 when he was just fifteen—memories torn from his subconscious when his church decides to deny the Boy Scouts access to the church since the Scouts have decided they can no longer exclude gay scouts. For a majority of church leaders, the action of the Boy Scouts runs afoul of their religious views. Following a night of jumbled and troubling memories of Wesley Westmore, once a close friend and “blood brother,” Dennis’s mind focuses upon a preferably buried summer camping experience at the Black Mountain Camp for Boys. Foreboding and foreshadowing hangs over the narration of Dennis’s memory and Newman’s story just like the circling gulls in The Birds or the crows that later assemble on playground equipment outside of a small school house before an even greater attack ensues. There simply is no escaping that tragedy is afoot… and there is no escape for the reader who finds they have no choice but to devour page after page of Newman’s tightly written, inescapably gruesome thriller.
Through a series of serendipitous events, a group of boys are left largely unsupervised days after discovering that one among them, Wesley Westmore, is gay. Verbal attacks by some of the boys are met by a defiant Wesley and little or no reaction from his friend, Dennis. Wesley’s his is sealed.
Newman’s novella is the most horrific of horror stories. There are no supernatural elements, no paranormal creatures, no eerie camp grounds haunted by the vengeful undead. What does exist at the Black Mountain Camp for Boys is intolerance, bigotry, betrayal, ignorance, fear, violence, regret, homophobia in the literal sense of the word, and a pack mentality fueled with hate. There is brutality and blood. Lots and lots of blood. There are shades of William Golding’s famous novel, Lord of the Flies (1954) as well as real horrors such as the Matthew Shepard murder that shocked much of the nation in 1998. The monsters that lurk in Odd Man Out are the worse monsters possible because they are monsters of the real world: misguided, out of control human beings lacking any foundation of forbearance or love, demonstrating the worst elements that can be found in human nature.
Newman’s writing is non-judgmental. There is no preaching on display; just cause and effect and horrible consequences all put on full exhibition. There are no easy answers or escape from reality. The reflections in the mirror for all of the major players—even the narrator—is grim. Subsequently, some readers will finish Odd Man Out feeling a bit out of sorts with James Newman and the reality he has forced upon them. In actuality, this proves to be evidence of a writer with a stark purpose in mind which he steadfastly sticks to; a writer with courage and incredible narrative skills.
Upon completing Odd Man Out I once again thought about Hitchcock’s The Birds and its final scene. The bird attacks abate as mysteriously as they had begun although warnings on a car radio speak of other unnatural gatherings of birds elsewhere. One small group of survivors who have become the film’s central focus drive off safely at the end of the film off with a beautiful, colorful sunrise offering a better future. The conclusion to Odd Man Out as well as a short afterword by the Reverend Amanda Hendler-Voss provides hope, too, but only if we humans step up to the challenge of demanding and ensuring what is right for all members of our society. As with the radio announcer’s notice in The Birds, danger still exists. In light of recent political and societal upheavals in America where bigotry and hatred appear to have been given a green light of acceptance and legal protections against the LGBTQ community are being stripped away and even new barriers to equality being attempted, Newman’s tale of unrelenting, graphic terror and its profound message is more important than ever.
There is one boy there who Dennis had been friends and "blood brothers" with when they were 10 years old, before Dennis moved away.
From the beginning of the story, the reader can feel the tension between the different boys. Two of the boys are a little older and start bullying the others right away.
This was actually a horrifying story and it was written very well. It's a tale of mob mentality and the minds of young boys that don't want to be "different." It has one of the saddest endings I've ever read.
A very difficult and emotional read. I could see the events unfolding and felt powerless as they played out before me. Intolerance, hate and bullying are difficult subjects to tackle. Kudos to James for taking this on and doing so with such skill and sensitivity despite the heavy subject matter.
*Be good to each other, people. Life's too short to live it full of hate. It will eat you alive. Or worse, it will grow inside you.*
One of the most heart-wrenching books I have read since The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Absolutely, positively sad story about hate and bullying and broken human beings. However, just like Jack Ketchum, James Newman navigates these horrific waters with care. He makes your think. What if it was me? What would I do? While I was reading I was kicking myself for times I've failed the Odd Man Out, and smiling with joy when I remembered times that I stood my ground for others. I love this book. I love what it exposes in us all. I love a book that makes you think and want to be a better person. But don't go in blind, this book will make you want to scream, cry, and rage. But, it is worth it. Newman wraps it perfectly with a ribbon of challenge and love. I'm going to purchase and read everything this man writes. I suggest you do the same because etc., etc. Just go do it! It's better than listening to me.
His voice is amazing. This is a great example of voice. James made stylistic choices that really pull you into the novella. The dialog is superb, the characters are real, and what happens is still haunting me. I have family members who have come out, and it makes me scared for them - that some won't understand them, won't treat them fairly.
I had mixed feelings as I read this. There is a lot of hate in this story, from many characters, but in the end there was a good message, one that needs to be heard. I could easily see this as a short film.
After reading this, you'll want to read more of James' work.
"Odd Man Out" is a stunning and brutal look at the deadly combination of homophobia and mob-mentality. Not since Jack Ketchum's "The Girl Next Door" has a book left me feeling gutted.
High praise to Bloodshot Books for giving this story another look. The events at Black Mountain Camp for Boys took place in 1989, but the topics are just as important today. Don't miss this one.