Thursday, April 14, 2005

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recent reviews: good-guy vampires

I'm a pushover for good-guy vampires, starting back in high school when I got embarrassingly hooked on Dark Shadows reruns on the Sci-Fi channel and Forever Knight on Saturdays at midnight. Just recently I fell back into the hunt for good-guy vampire novels, with mixed results.

The Vampire Files by P.N. Elrod
Series of nine books, starting with Bloodlist

I found these novels back in high school on the first vampire obsession kick, and wow, they never, ever get old. I've lost track of the times I've reread them. Jack Fleming is a journalist turned vampire in 1930's Chicago, where he ends up tangling with mobsters, snagging a gorgeous singer girlfriend, and helping out a private investigator friend with casework.

The novels are pretty much genre stories, but the characters are so engaging that I never suffered from any genre boredom. Even if he weren't a vampire, I'd probaby hang out with this guy. I'm a total sucker for strongly written protagonists, and man, the junk I end up reading or watching because of them, honestly. Roger Smith and Dorothy in The Big O got me to watch a show about freaking giant robots. I read all the way through the godawful "Grand Guignol" arc in Starman because I really, really liked Jack Knight. I have no shame.

The first six books - the original series - are excellent light reads. The series picked up again in the past few years with four new books, but I haven't been as big a fan of these ones.

Blood Walk and Blood Games by Lee Killough

Police procedurals with an extra vampire twist, Killough's books follow Garreth Mikaelian, a homicide detective turned vampire against his will. Over the series, Garreth tracks down his vampiric killer and winds up settling in a small Kansas town, where he works the night shift as a policeman.

These books were a light read, but very heavy on investigative details. I couldn't get into these books as much because there wasn't a whole lot to the lead character besides "OMG vampire now" and "I like law enforcement and fast cars," plus a bit of "You touched my stuff/I'll get revenge for your death, sweetie" later on. As a reader, my big red flag is any point where I say to myself, "Wait, why am I following the Adventures of This Guy? Why do I care what happens to him, again?"

Also, design whining - the cover art and design for these two novels isn't so hot. The art on the first one is a bit freaky, the art on the second is vague and murky, and the type on the second seems really out of place to me. To me that typeface says "Wiccan moon ceremony" more than "creepy police procedural set in Kansas." I checked the publisher's catalog and it turns out that most of the book covers are a bit underwhelming. If you removed the cover art, they'd be almost indistinguishable. Definitely some room for a little more expressive typography there, or at least a shakeup of the layouts.

Posted to Death by Dean James

My first thought when I read the description of this book: "Gay vampires in England? Woo hoo, it's the Holy Grail!" And then I read on and saw that it was a cozy mystery set in the village of "Snupperton Mumsley." This is like finding the Holy Grail but it's full of diet Vanilla Coke.

But I read it anyway, because dude, good-guy vampires. It's a fluffy cozy mystery, a bit of a send-up with vicars, cottages, and characters like "Lady Prunella Blitherington." The flirty bits were well done, and the ending had a bit of a twist, but as vampires go, this was a bait-and-switch. The main character, an American vampire abroad, takes special medication to counteract the negative effects of vampirism. As a result, there is literally no vampire content besides the occasional aside to the reader to point out that he actually does reflect in mirrors and can enter churches without problem.

I also wish I knew a bit more about the author, because vampire Simon Kirby-Jones smacked a bit of the Mary Sue. He's an American writer transplanted to a furnished cottage in a small English village. He is a respected historical biographer, he secretly writes best-selling mystery and romance novels with ease, all the gay men in the village seem to like him, and he's a vampire with zero negative side effects. Okay, he's pretty funny and charming, but still. You need to offer me a really good plot for me to read the Adventures of Captain Wish Fulfillment. If you're into Keeping Up Appearances-esque village mysteries with a fair amount of The Gay, you might enjoy this book.

5 comments!     click to join in

1 Constantine   (2:48pm - Apr 15, 2005)

For another take on good guy vampires, check out the short story in back of Containment #2.

2 Scott   (2:34pm - Apr 22, 2005)

Have you read the Tanya Huff Bloodlines series?

3 Kitty   (6:20pm - Apr 22, 2005)

Constantine - Aahh, I'm scared of scary things! The descriptions of those comics sound freaky.

Scott - I read the first one, Blood Price, back in high school during my first good-guy vampire frenzy. I remember enjoying the vampire aspects but not being so keen on the other supernatural bits. How is the rest of the series? (I had Victory Nelson's fate spoiled for me by a short story in Vampire Detectives, mind you. Rats). Also, I noticed that Tanya Huff has a new book out focusing on Henry and Tony; I might put that on the to-read list.

4 Scott   (10:44am - Apr 24, 2005)

The first and fifth ones are probably the weakest, the rest of the series is quite good (especially the second and fourth). Each book tends to focus on one classic horror theme such as demons, werewolves, mummies, frankenstein's monsters and so on. I haven't read the new one yet.

5 Kitty   (9:24am - Apr 25, 2005)

Scott - nice! Thanks for the tip about the rest of Huff's vampire series. I'll pick up book 2 from the library the next chance I get. Awright, more good-guy vampires!

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