Not often does such a short tale pack such an immense punch. Odd Man Out is terrifying, disturbing and all too possible.
Testing the saleability of a summer camp, nine boys find themselves in a situation where ingrained hatred festers and true natures bloom, giving fear active legs. It’s 1989. The counsellor number has dwindled to one lackluster and disinterested young man. One boy is in the hospital already with poison ivy in his nether areas –chose a bad spot in the bush to take a shit. The story's narrator is weakened by the gaze of bullies and the alphas of the group stand as self-appointed authorities. Most of the boys follow the flow. And, most unfortunately given the traits of those listed prior, one boy is outed as gay.
There is a cringe-worthy progression to this story that builds tension like a torture rack. A vivid and heavy smog, the terror of this story fills the pages with painful imagery presented amidst visible scenery and emotional ties. The brutality and plausibility fire as if laser-locked. These are situations –though steps further than the norm– that resemble expected existence. These are people you’ve known –though perhaps never so rabid, or perhaps blindly wilful.
I am awed by the quality, tact and strength of James Newman’s Odd Man Out.