Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Many of you have probably read part or all of P. N. Elrod’s “Vampire Files” series. The adventures of Jack Fleming, journalist turned vampire detective, began with BLOODLIST (1990). Published not long after Lee Killough’s BLOOD HUNT, Elrod’s novel coincidentally shares a similar plot premise: A newly risen vampire solves his own murder. The two authors develop the basic idea very differently, though.
BLOODLIST, narrated in the first person by investigative reporter Jack Fleming, begins by plunging the reader into a tense action scene in which Jack wakes up on a beach and almost immediately becomes the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run attack. It turns out that a Chicago gangster wants him dead, and he has to find out who and why, handicapped by gaps in his memory as a result of his violent death. Rising as a vampire comes as a shock to Jack but not a total surprise. Maureen, his former lover, who disappeared five years earlier, had warned him he might become one of the undead. In Elrod’s universe, creating a new vampire isn’t automatic or easy. Even with repeated blood exchanges, the human partner may or may not transform after death. Jack has most of the vampire traits established in DRACULA and other classic tales: He has fangs and feeds on blood, which need not be human. (He gets most of his meals at the Chicago Stockyards.) He can “vanish,” as he thinks of it, analogous to Dracula’s turning into mist, and pass through solid objects in that form. Elrod’s vampires can’t change into bats or other animals, though. He can control people with his mind. Unlike Dracula but like most twentieth-century popular culture vampires, he can’t stand sunlight. Unlike some other sun-vulnerable vampires, he falls into an involuntary coma throughout the daylight hours, a definite disadvantage. He also needs earth to rest on, which he digs up from his family’s burial plot. As would be expected, he remains the same physical age as when he “died” (in fact, oddly, turning into a vampire makes him look about ten years younger than he really is), so in later installments of the series people underestimate him because he doesn’t look his chronological age.
In BLOODLIST he meets the other principal character in the series, British detective (or “private agent,” as he prefers) and former actor Charles Escott. Charles discovers Jack’s true nature and confronts him out of curiosity rather than fear or hostility. He volunteers to help track down Jack’s killers, and the two men become partners. The character of Charles is clearly a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, with the same deductive genius and a similar facial appearance. In an interview years later, Elrod confirmed in almost so many words that Charles was meant to be Holmes’s son; for details, she referred readers to Doyle’s “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.” Throughout the Vampire Files books, the contrast between Charles’s cool intellect and Jack’s warmhearted impulsiveness provides constant entertainment. Also in BLOODLIST, Jack rescues a night club singer named Bobbi, who becomes his true love. Their love scenes in some of the novels, though not frequent or very explicit, are deeply sensual.
As you may know, Elrod has continued this series almost to the present, with new installments released not long ago. Jack demonstrates Elrod’s premise that vampires don’t have to be evil; they’re transformed human beings, not demons. They make ethical choices like any other person dealing with a difficult life condition. We see Jack as a decent man wrestling with moral and existential quandaries as he becomes ever more deeply immersed in an underworld where the right choice is often far from obvious. It’s best to read the books in order from the beginning to watch him come to terms with his vampirism and develop a network of relationships among the shadier elements of Chicago society.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Monday, May 13, 2013
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Some fairy tales everyone knows—these aren't those tales. These are tales of kings who get deposed and pigs who get married. These are ten tales, much neglected. Editor of Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, Kate Wolford, introduces and annotates each tale in a manner that won't leave novices of fairy tale studies lost in the woods to grandmother's house, yet with a depth of research and a delight in posing intriguing puzzles that will cause folklorists and savvy readers to find this collection a delicious new delicacy.
Beyond the Glass Slipper is about more than just reading fairy tales—it's about connecting to them. It's about thinking of the fairy tale as a precursor to Saturday Night Live as much as it is to any princess-movie franchise: the tales within these pages abound with outrageous spectacle and absurdist vignettes, ripe with humor that pokes fun at ourselves and our society.
Never stuffy or pedantic, Kate Wolford proves she's the college professor you always wish you had: smart, nurturing, and plugged into pop culture. Wolford invites us into a discussion of how these tales fit into our modern cinematic lives and connect the larger body of fairy tales, then asks—no, insists—that we create our own theories and connections. A thinking man's first step into an ocean of little known folklore.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I'm thrilled to have been invited to guest post here at the Bite Club! While I don't feature any vampires in my current superhero "MetaWars" series, I have my own version of vampires in my Dreg City books. Vampires are such a fantastic creature, because they can be interpreted in so many unique ways. My vampires are a species unto themselves—never human, with white hair and lavender eyes. However, when they bite a human being, that human is infected with a virus that makes them half-vampire (and sometimes wholly crazy).
Putting my own spin on vampire mythology was a lot of fun, and I have fun experiencing other creators' ideas on our fanged friends. I've put together a list of a few of my favorite vampires.
X. The "Kate Daniels" series, by Ilona Andrews. The vampires in her books are probably some of the most unique in urban fantasy. The vampires themselves are mindless moving corpses driven by blood-lust. They can be "piloted" (aka, controlled) by Masters of the Dead. These necromancers move the vampires by remote and can even speak through their mouths. The visuals I get from reading these books make me shudder and hope I never run into one in a dark alley.
X. "The Dresden Files." Alas, I do mean the vampires from SyFy's take on the book series, since I've only read three of the actual novels by Jim Butcher (I'm working on it!). I think the TV show's version of Bianca is one of my favorite vampires on television. She's seductive, sexy, smart, and she's a cold-blooded killer. The vampires in this world are divided into Courts, and each Court has its own peculiarities and rank. I'm not terribly familiar with the Courts, but I love the idea of various kinds of vampires within one world.