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…

Scandi-Crime?

English: Waterstones and Fat Face, Northallerton
English: Waterstones and Fat Face, Northallerton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was wandering through the local Waterstones this morning to see what new books might be on-sale or worth paying that extra ‘bob’ or two for if not on-sale. I was really killing time while I waited for my business appointment time of two o’clock.

I took the escalator upstairs and after browsing through my favorite sections of the entertainment industry and biographical sections I moved onto the fictional crime section.

I noticed an entire display dedicated to Scandi-crime. I stopped for a moment to ponder this newly created genre. I have done the odd book review for Scandinavian crime novels aka mystery novels as I’ve enjoyed the ones I read. I was surprised to see that the apparent popularity of these previously undiscovered authors had spawned their own sub-genre.

When the literary world outside of Scandinavia discovered the late Stieg Larsson and his Millenium Trilogy two things happened almost simultaneously. The first was the public’s delight in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo stories and the second was the presence of other Scandinavian writers.

Stieg Larsson’s popularity has opened the floodgates for other equally talented writers who only needed to be translated to English for the literary pundits to get excited about. I’ve read Hans Koppel and Thomas Enger, but both books by these talented men are obviously just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

On the dedicated display table in Waterstones I found out there were more presumably talented Scandinavian writers who had plenty of books for perusal.  Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Camilla Lackberg, Hakan Nesser, Karin Alvtegen, and Karin Fossum were the authors on display.

English: Håkan Nesser at a crime fiction festi...
English: Håkan Nesser at a crime fiction festival in Bremen 2009 Deutsch: Håkan Nesser bei der Veranstaltung “Crime Time Prime Time” in Bremen im September 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lot of signage had been set up for Nesbo’s The Bat. The display that was just in front of the downstairs main cash register proudly proclaimed that this was the first time that the Harry Hole novel had been available to the English-speaking and reading world. Over 14 million copies of the book have already been sold.

In fact Jo Nesbo alone has eight books on offer at the moment. This includes the “first ever” Harry Hole book of The Bat. If you continue down the Waterstones webpage of Scandi-crime novels on offer you’ll see a ‘shed-load’ of books on offer. All of them written by Scandinavian authors.

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I was gutted when I finished reading the last of the Millenium books only to find that Stieg Larsson had died and that he would not be writing any further books. I was also sad that this obviously talented man had died far too early. The blow was softened a bit by my accidental discovery of two more Scandinavian writers who were also very entertaining.

Now thanks to a chance encounter with a display table in my local Waterstones, I’ve discovered even more. I will admit to having a schoolboy giggle at the sign for Jo Nesbo’s book The Bat. The large placard touted the fact that this was the first ever Harry Hole book. I did have quite a few immature thoughts about ‘a Harry Hole’, ‘the Harry Hole’, and even about ‘how Harry the Hole was.’

Luckily for me, I was on my own. This prevented me from vocalizing the above thought pattern. So apart from me giggling uncontrollably for at least a full minute, nobody had a clue as to why. My daughter has threatened to pretend that she doesn’t know me when we go shopping. Besides my annoying habit of automatically seeing the rude side to items on display in shops, I also cannot control myself over the Christmas sales months.

Every toy or musical/mechanical/automated device on display that has a “push me” or “try me” button on it will be pushed or tried by myself. The end result is a cacophony of barking dogs, Christmas songs, singing Santa’s, et al all going off at once. Small children glare at me and mothers look disapprovingly at me while I scamper about pushing all the buttons. My daughter has learned to move away from me when we go into stores at this time of year.

Sorry, I’ve digressed quite a bit here. Back on topic!

These ‘new’ authors are on my ‘to read’ list. I will be looking up Harry Hole’s (sorry) first adventure as soon as I’ve finished reading Michael Grant’s Gone series. It looks to me like Scandinavia has a few more exports than just furniture and trees.

Finally I have to be fair to Jo Nesbo’s character Harry Hole, I’m sure he loses something in translation.