Former Executive Editor of The Phuket News Alasdair Forbes once described Jim as: “…one of those enviable people who’s had several lives, all of them immensely enjoyable.” He was a rock photographer, on the road in the seventies with the likes of Eric Burdon of The Animals, and Robben Ford, later living in Laurel Canyon, California, alongside legends such as John Mayall and John Densmore of The Doors.
He moved from photography into movies, becoming a highly successful Production Designer. He’s been nominated for an Emmy award and has been responsible for the “look” of TV series such as LOST and The Shield and movies such as Bangkok Dangerous.
In 2003, Asia Books published the first of his four Vampire Of Siam novels. This led to a novel on the life of “Rock God” Jimi Hendrix Chasing Jimi and his first Hollywood novel: Tinsel Town – Another Rotten Day In Paradise.
Newport’s latest novel, Yankee Dragon, continues to take the reader behind the scenes. The Phuket News sat down with Newport in his home at Kamala Beach to discuss his latest literary adventure.
You have been coming to Phuket since 1989. Why?
I’ve been coming right here – this spot in Kamala – for almost 25 years. For the first 15 years I rented a little house across the street – right where Andara is. It was truly magical. There was nothing else here. The cries of the gibbons in the jungle filled the night. I knew the first time I saw it that I had found the spot where I would spend the rest of my days.”
Were you writing then?
I wanted to. I was well in my film design career and I was experimenting writing scripts when I was between films. I was arrogant enough to think I could do that. Eventually I turned to novel writing, simply because it allowed me to put more descriptions in.
How did Yankee Dragon come about?
In 1990 I went to Japan to design Mr Baseball. The experience was so incredible (think of Lost In Translation on steroids) that I started keeping a journal. When it was over I started turning it into a novel. I finished a rough draft and showed it to Asia Books. They liked it but were not going to publish a novel set in Japan. So I set it aside and wrote The Vampire Of Siam.
What happened to Yankee Dragon?
I forgot about it. And I assumed it was lost. I didn’t have a copy. And then, last year, my wife and I went to Japan. We were meeting an old friend, a Japanese artist I’ve known for a long time, and I casually asked if she happened to have a copy. She did. I started reading it on the plane back to Bangkok and fell in love with it. I rewrote it and gave it to California Times, who I just signed a publishing deal with.
It’s well known in Phuket that you have a musical alter ego. What’s he up to?
Jimmy Fame. He’s been joining the Jazz Band at the Siam Supper Club on Mondays. We did a whole set of jazz standards – Le Jazz Hot – at HOME restaurant in Kalim in November. We’ve talked about recording a jazz CD. But whenever Colin Hill calls, it’s great fun to ‘shout the blues’ for an evening where ever he’s playing.”
Any films on the horizon?
I’ve been trying to get my own project made (Barefoot.) It’s set entirely on Phuket and I’ve gotten a lot of support from the community, but it’s like rolling a boulder up a steep hill. In the meantime, Mechanic II: Resurrection with Jason Statham opens everywhere August 26.
Yankee Dragon by Jim Newport is available in all formats (ePub, paperback, hardcover) exclusively from Amazon.com/books