My friend James Polster's out-of-print, 1987 comic novel A GUEST IN THE JUNGLE was just re-released by Amazon Encore, or as he explains it, "Amazon the bookseller has recently decided to become Amazon the publisher and reissue my novel about Amazon the jungle."
GUEST IN THE JUNGLE is about a Pittsburgh attorney named Whitehill who sets off on a South American vacation that he thinks will be a leisurely jaunt, hiking through the Amazon in his Brooks Brothers pants. But a sightseeing trip goes awry, leaving him stranded in the heart of the Amazon jungle…beginning a serious of outrageous, darkly comic misadventures.
James based the book on his own world travels. The snapshot on the left is from his own foray into the jungle.
"It was taken by the anthropologist who had first contact with the tribe. I never met him because he was killed by a coral snake (not that easy to happen, the snake has to get a really good bite) shortly after shooting this, about three months before I was taken in- by the guy who was with him when he was bitten," James says. "The anthropologist was also a marathon runner, and when he realized what had just happened, instead of staying in the cool river where he had slipped, his instincts kicked in and he started to run. Pumped the venom all through his system."
His experience with Amazon has been fantastic…and they will soon be releasing his entire backlist, including BROWN and THE GRADUATE STUDENT over the next couple of months. Here's a Q&A with himself that he sent me.
Q: After your world travels, you ended up in Los Angeles, a kind of jungle in its own right. What took you to L.A.?
A: I had an offer from Columbia Pictures, and a separate offer to write the screenplay for A GUEST IN THE JUNGLE. I got the screenwriting offer because they knew about Columbia, and I got the Columbia offer because they knew about the screewriting thing. So, I showed up in town with two jobs, neither of which I was qualified to do.
Q: In your second novel, BROWN, main character McGee Brown is a former sports writer turned amateur detective. Are you a sports fan as well as an adventure traveler? Any detective work in that daredevil past of yours?
A: I am a sports fan….I never was a detective, but I had an office in New Orleans that looked like something out of the Maltese Falcon, and a friend kept insisting we become detectives because of this.
Q: Your newest novel, THE GRADUATE STUDENT, centers on the bizarre world of Hollywood with a little bit of jungle mystique mixed in… Any behind-the-scenes info you can share, either from Hollywood or the jungle?
A: Hollywood behind the scenes- It's all in the book. Where else in the world can a bunch of daft people gather in a room to figure out how to spend millions and millions of dollars? From the studio's old, secret staircase used to sneak starlets up to the casting couch, to Stallone's jokes, to the guy who taught one of the world's most powerful computers to be a screenwriter- so much of it is true.