As a student at Queens University Belfast in the mid 70's I was privileged to be selected to act as a "counsellor" on the Camp America scheme. I spent a very happy 10 weeks working with underprivileged kids at Camp Sebago just south of Portland in the Pine Tree State of Maine. This was a very closed environment and it offered city kids the opportunity to mature and grow and hopefully develop into exemplary adults. In such an idyllic setting it was very obvious to me who the trouble makers were, who sought attention, who craved companionship, and who simply wanted to be left alone.
It all came flooding back to me in this excellent short story "Odd Man Out". That is certainly not to say that I encountered extremes of behaviour but I can appreciate how James Newman skilfully used the summer camp setting to show the ugly side of human nature. Dennis Munce "D-Man" is spending the summer at Black Mountain Camp for Boys with his best childhood friend Wesley Westmore. It is indicated that Wesley has a secret, and something that he wishes to remain hidden in this boys will be boys setting...."We knew Wesley was not like us, even though we couldn't explain what we meant when we were nine or ten" In any group there are those egotistical individuals who seek to strengthen their peer standing by searching out those they see as weak or "different" and quite simply destroying them. What follows is a shocking example of the lowest form of human behaviour, why sometimes it is best not to remain silent in the face of evil, to act and put right and not just to follow!
James Newman is certainly one of the best authors I have been introduced to in my long association with "goodreads" a social networking site for booklovers. His writing is thoughtful, articulate and a joy to read quite simply he is an excellent story teller. Odd Man Out is one of best novellas I have had the pleasure to read this year, a story that paints a bleak picture of humanity but one that needs to be read if we are to fully understand and alter the way we view those who do not adhere to what we perceive as the norm.