Last week, I looked at European vampires, the rough and ready kind in Liverpool and the aristocratic Clairmonts with an ancient castle (or two) in France. This week, I’m staying with the vampire theme but giving it an American flavour.
One book sees the east coast of America being overrun by vampires until a few people in Jersey muster some resistance. The other book looks at a single, newly-turned vampire in Texas.
One was published in 2004 by a best-selling author with a slew of books to his name and a desire to write a back-to-basics vampire book that showed them as scary predators to whom the rest of us are lunch. The other was published in 2017 as a debut novel by an emerging talent in the horror genre.
I’m hoping that both of them will deliver a view of vampires that confronts the reality of vampires as brutal predators in contrast to last week’s view of vampires as immortals with vast wealth, impeccable taste, good table manners and a passion for history.
‘Midnight Mass‘ by F. Paul Wilson (2004)
I only knew of F. Paul Wilson as the guy who wrote the ‘Repairman Jack’ series. I didn’t know that he wrote the book that Michael Mann’s 80s classic movie ‘The Keep’ was based on. I picked up ‘Midnight Mass’ because I saw it in the Audible Plus catalogue of books that Audible offer free to members and I liked the premise both of Eastern European vampires using the fall of the USSR to take control of the world (substitute Cybercriminals/oligarchs for vampires and the plot is quite prophetic) and of going back to basics and seeing vampires as irredeemably evil and fundamentally predatory.
In his Author’s Note at the front of the book, Wilson says that he was ‘raised a Catholic but is now in remission’ – something he and I have in common – but that, in this book, he’s assumed that all the Catholic mythology is real and that vampires cannot abide crosses or holy water. I like the humour in the idea that the rabbi character in the book survives the holocaust the vampires launch against the Jews only because he’s pragmatic enough to wear a crucifix.
Jersey is Wilson’s home State and I love that he’s set the novel there rather than the more typical NYC. I think the vampires may regret crossing over from Manhattan before the book is done.
I’m hoping for something thrillerish that builds a compelling answer to the questions ‘If vampires, who can’t abide sunlight, or cross thresholds without permission and who can be killed by decapitation or a stake through the heart and hurt by crucifixes and holy water, came to town like organised crime, what would be their strategy for taking and keeping territory and what could non-military humans do to take them down?
‘In The Valley Of The Sun’ by Andy Davidson (2017)
Lots of things about ‘In The Valley Of The Sun’ call to me. First off, who sets a vampire story in a desert in Texas? How’s that going to work? Secondly, the book is set in the 1980s, as all classic American horror should be. Thirdly, the main character seems to be a most unpleasant person even before he became a vampire and what could be more 1980s than an anti-hero? Finally, the reviews say that Andy Davidson writes well. The label ‘Literary Fiction’ is often used but as Literary Fiction normally means character-driven novels that don’t follow a genre formula, I’m not sure what this means.
I’m hoping for something dark, moody, distinctively 80s America and with a character-driven plot.