I've done a lot of reflecting today.
Last night I learned that horror writer--and my friend--Philip Nutman (author of the zombie novel Wet Work) passed away quite unexpectedly. He's been on my mind all day as a flood of memories have come back. I owe Phil a lot. And I mean, a lot.
I met him 10 years ago this Halloween. At the time, I was a fresh-faced writer and horror fan. I'd just read his short-lived run on the Halloween comics back when Chaos! Comics held the Michael Myers licence. I was a huge fan of those books as they were all about continuity and bridging the gap between Halloween 6 and H20. I wrote him and told him as much and expressed that I, too, was a writer and desperately wanted to follow his run on the Halloween books and pick up where he left off. Pretty bold words, but I was in my early twenties and didn't know any better. For his part, Phil was gracious and we were soon speaking on the phone, talking about Halloween, horror, and film. It was Phil who convinced me to get on a plane (for the first time) and fly out to L.A. (also for the first time) to come meet him at the Halloween 25th Anniversary Convention in Pasadena. That convention changed my life and marked my birth as a "serious" writer.
That was Halloween weekend, ten years ago this Halloween. Now Phil's gone. How much has changed in a decade...
When I first met him, he was a manic, disheveled whirlwind, whipping about--and all I could do was hang on and enjoy the ride. And what a ride. He became a mentor to me, calling me his "protege" at parties, while insisting I call him "Uncle Phil". He took me under his wing and introduced me to Hollywood. I learned real quick that everyone knows Phil in the horror community. He never ceased to amaze me with his behind-the-scenes stories for all my favorite horror movies, because he was there, right in thick of it, reporting for Fangoria Magazine. Phil who opened my eyes to the industry and taught me how to conduct myself. He was all bluster and swagger as he deftly navigated celebrities and filmmakers. He was my foul-mouth Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I was in awe of him. He was a horror rock star.
I'm sitting here, at a loss for words. I could fill a novella with all that Phil taught me. All that he's done for me. He served as my unofficial agent for a time, helping me pitch scripts around town. He critiqued my earlier scripts, never afraid to tell me when I'd missed the mark. It was thanks to him I sold my first short story. While that anthology eventually fell apart before publication, the story remained and became "Flowers for Shelly".
Today, I'm tumbling through memories. All the phone calls we had. The times we talked about more important things than writing, like family. Like faith. I remember how he loved to cook, referring to himself as "Chef Philippe", and used to berate me for enjoying McDonalds' so much :) Of all the things that I remember about Phil, the thing I remember most is how kind he was to me, when he had no reason to be. I was a nobody. Not a writer back in those days--just a wannabe. But he was there for me, coaching me, patient with me, doing his very best to see I got my "big break". Oh, he'd yell and curse and was quick to say when something was crap, but when I earned his approval, I knew I'd earned it. And I cherished that. He gave me confidence and made me feel special, and taught me to do the same to others. To be kind and charitable to everyone I met. This is a business of friendships, and I learned that from Phil.
I looked forward to his calls and, while we lost touch in recent years, I'll never forget the impact he made on me--both personally and professionally. I've thanked him a lot over the years, in public and privately, and here I am again, after he's gone, still thinking about him. Still thanking him.
It'll never be enough. Thank you, Uncle Phil.