Johnny Depp Retirement Saddens Christopher Lee

Johnny Depp Retirement Saddens Christopher Lee

Vampires Don’t Sparkle by Michael West: A Blood-soaked Bonanza

VDS-Cover-SmallI have to admit that I had given up on the world of vampire literature. Thanks to a suburban housewife in America, vampires had become a race of sulking, bloodless, pedophiles who glittered in the sun like cheap dime store jewellery.

In the sun??

Growing up on a steady diet of Hammer Horror (and yes the capitals are required) and discovering films like Near Dark, The Hunger, Fright Night, et al; I was disgusted at the thought of a “tween” vampire written by someone who did not even like vampires. It was a joke with a bloodless punchline that left a foul taste in one’s mouth.

I had given up hope of ever reading a vampire tale that would affect me so much that I had to sleep with the light on and nervously peer into darkened corners or jump, heart pounding, at every creak and pop as the house settles for the night.

But…

I had not counted on Horror Master (again the capitals are required) Michael West to collect such an array of brilliantly bloody and violent “old-fashioned” vampires. Vampires who: cannot walk in the sun and don’t look like a tawdry bit of moving glitter dust when they do, rip out throats, are cruel and vicious, have super-human strength and require a stake, and a hammer to kill.

It appears that I am not alone in my disgust at the current fad of foppish, shiny, reflective pompadour wearing sweetie-cakes who’d rather starve than rip out a throat and glut themselves on human blood. It appears that Mr West also longed for the more “traditional” Dracula type vampire and set out to find a collection of short stories where the vampires don’t sparkle…they kill.

He offers, for our entertainment and enjoyment (and terror) fifteen different stories about blood ingesting, super-human creatures who yearn for your blood from fifteen different contemporary authors. There is even a robot vampire!  But all these stories have one thing in common, apart from the fact that all the vampires in them are actually scary and would not appeal to any “tween” that I know of; these stories suffer from originality. 

They also have a wonderful Dionysian pathos that is admirable. I will admit that when I finished this blood-drenched work of art I felt (apart from uneasy about the fact that night had fallen) quite sated; akin to a tick or leech or even a mosquito after a long leisurely feast of blood from a victim.  Because the vampire is a blood sucking creature whose bodily fluid intake and exchange is as primal as the act of sex.

Michael West prefaces this collection of stories stating two things. The first is his dismay about what vampires have become in popular fiction. The second is his personal catharsis in dealing with two people who are near and dear to him being stricken with cancer.

One was a good friend and colleague who lost her battle against the horrible disease, the second is his wife, who has won her fight against this merciless killer. It is because of his personal involvement that he has donated a portion of the proceeds from the sales of this collection. He will be doing the same for his future anthologies.

If you love  more traditional vampires grab this book with both hands and read it. In a world of 2 and 3 star books and vampires who really aren’t, this collection is a real 5 star glorious bloodsucking creature of the night read.

I will leave you with Michael’s own statement about the book: “Stephenie Meyer stole this monster from Bram Stoker. We’re stealin’ it back!”

Michael with Elvira Mistress of the Dark...
Michael with Elvira Mistress of the Dark…

Bite: A Vampire Handbook by Kevin Jackson: Vampires 101

Published in 2009 Bite is a sort of chronicle of vampires for beginners. Jackson starts off by listing the various vampire myths throughout the world and points out that almost every civilization has their own version of vampires as well as unique names for the un-dead.

Considering the fact that the book itself consists of only five chapters there is not a hugely in-depth analysis of the vampire mythos it does , however, pay considerable “lip-service” to most of the more popular vampires of fiction.

The book goes on to discus vampires in literature, trotting out the old story of Byron and the Shelley’s and Polidori’s “monster” party where they challenged themselves to write a scary tale. Mary Shelley famously came up with the roots of Frankenstein which she later tweaked for publication. Polidori wrote about a vampire and was accused of plagiarizing Byron’s story.

There is also a mention of the penny dreadful series about Varney the Vampire and finally he winds up touching on Bram Stokers Dracula and gives a little background on Stoker’s alleged homosexuality and the actor Sir Henry Irving.

The vampire on stage and celluloid are broached next with a minimum of attention paid to Bela LugosiChristopher Lee and Max Schreck in their early depictions of the blood drinking Count Dracula.

There are quite a few books and authors that Jackson recommends and discusses. Anne Rice, Stephen King, Kim Newman, et al. The same holds true with films and television shows dealing with blood suckers although somewhat amazingly Jackson confesses that he did not like The Lost Boys, one of the best films dealing with the vampire genre in the 80’s.

Besides the fact that I seriously questioned the authors taste in film, I doubted that he had even seen the movie. How anyone could chronicle vampires in fiction and not like The Lost Boys worries me. More importantly to not  recognise the important impact that the film had on future vampire films is almost criminal.

Still, he does cover a lot of material in his five chapter introduction to the lore and gore of the vampire world. But, as I suggested in the title of this post, it is just an introduction for all that. He does not spend enough time on any of the areas he writes about.

For the novice vampire fan, it will serve the purpose of at least giving the burgeoning reader or film-goer a choice of what to read or watch. Although the first chapter can drag a bit as he lists all the names of the different versions of vampires in different cultures. It’s somewhat akin to reading the Book of Genesis in the Bible and yawningly going through all those begets.

So I can safely give this little handbook 3 out of 5 stars. There are other books out there that delve a lot deeper into the subject than this one, but it’s not bad for all that.

Author of Bite, Kevin Jackson.