Sunday, March 15, 2020

Hollywood Gothic

Film scholar David J. Skal's lavishly illustrated, highly entertaining, detailed nonfiction book HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC (1990; second edition 2004), contrary to what the title might suggest, isn't about horror movies in general (for that topic, read his fascinating, wide-ranging THE MONSTER SHOW) or even vampire movies in general. The subtitle summarizes the content: "The Tangled Web of DRACULA from Novel to Stage to Screen." The central chapters focus on the original play and the adaptation and production of the 1931 Bela Lugosi film from it, along with the lesser-known Spanish version shot from a translation of the English script, on the same sets with a different cast.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC contains much more material, though, preceding and following the broad, deep coverage of the origins and development of the 1931 film, as well as Lugosi's career. The first chapter surveys nineteenth-century vampire fiction before exploring Stoker's life and the writing of DRACULA. Chapter Two narrates Florence Stoker's copyright battle over her late husband's novel and the unauthorized silent classic NOSFERATU. Next comes the history of the DRACULA play in both its British and American versions. After the two chapters on the Lugosi movie and its Spanish doppelganger, the final chapter, "The Dracula Century," covers subsequent adaptations of and sequels to the novel, from the Universal and Hammer movies to many less familiar works.

This book tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the transformation of DRACULA from novel to play to film, the classic 1931 movie, and the life of Bela Lugosi, in addition to voluminous information about other DRACULA versions over a span of more than sixty years. Written in Skal's lucid, engaging style, it's a can't-miss read for any fan with a strong interest in any of those topics.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Vampire Hunter D

You may have seen the anime feature film VAMPIRE HUNTER D (1985), a sort of post-apocalyptic Western horror movie. It's based on the first book in a long-running series by Japanese author Hideyuki Kikuchi, a self-professed devoted fan of Hammer horror productions such as the Christoper Lee Dracula movies. A more visually artistic second anime, VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST, came out in 2000. The English translation of the original VAMPIRE HUNTER D novel was released in 2005, and Volume 28 (THE TIGER IN WINTER) was just published in the U.S. last year. (The Japanese and English volume numbering don't always match, however.) In Japanese, the series comprises at least thirty-six novels so far, and there's also a spinoff series, as well as a handful of short stories.

The novels take place thousands of years in the future, after the vampire lords have mostly been overthrown following centuries of tyrannical rule. Some of the Nobility (as they're called) survive, as do remnants of their advanced technology and magic. Small, isolated human settlements, plus a few large cities, are scattered across the devastated world. Grotesque monsters haunt the wastelands, with bounty hunters and vampire slayers therefore much in demand. In the first book, D, the famed but enigmatic vampire slayer, arrives in a small frontier town to protect Doris, an orphaned ranch owner courted—or persecuted—by the local vampire lord, Count Lee. (The homage to Christopher Lee in this Dracula-like character is obvious.) D, of course, defeats the villain after a harrowing expedition into the vampire's castle, where he confronts, among other dangers, a bevy of bloodthirsty females. Meanwhile, Doris's younger brother hero-worships D, who treats the boy with kindness, and Doris begins to fall in love with the hunter. At the end of the story, however, like most wandering loner heroes, D rides off into the wilderness, leaving all potential attachments behind.

D is a dhampir, a human-vampire hybrid with strength, speed, and abilities beyond those of ordinary mortals. He's described as a pale, dark-haired young man, repeatedly characterized as so "beautiful" and "gorgeous" that people are stunned at the sight of him. Frequent references to "the Sacred Ancestor" imply that he derives his single-initial title from his father, Dracula, an assumption he never explicitly confirms. In the palm of his left hand, D bears a symbiotic organism in the form of a miniature face, whose powers augment his own. The symbiont, which can detach itself and move independently, has no name other than Left Hand, and so far we haven't been told its nature and origin. D rides a cyborg horse that must be fairly tough in itself, since it survives through D's life-threatening adventures. In every novel he interacts with a new group of admirers, allies, and foes, as well as an assortment of unique monsters. One reviewer describes him as a tragic figure "dedicated to fighting darkness but unable to express love." Since D conforms to the strong, silent archetype of a "Clint Eastwood" persona, of whose inner life we get only superficial glimpses, we have to infer those "tragic" traits from external observation.

While the overall level of characterization in this series seldom rises above workmanlike, the worldbuilding, plotting, action scenes, and unusual creatures exert their own fascination. The books and the two animated films are worth checking out.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

My Love Lies Bleeding

Somehow I missed Alyxandra Harvey's YA novel MY LOVE LIES BLEEDING (2010) when it first came out. It offers an unusual slant on the nature of vampirism. The title, although evocative and romantic, has little apparent connection with the story other than suggesting a Gothic ambiance. In fact, this book isn't a romance, although it has two subplot threads that hint at future developments along that line. It doesn't fall into the Gothic genre, either, in my opinion, being contemporary fantasy with a scientific rationale for its paranormal elements. Harvey explains the vampire condition as a disease, apparently both inherited and infectious. A young pre-vampire remains indistinguishable from a human child until the age of sixteen. Then he or she undergoes the "bloodchange," emerging from the ordeal either dead or—when nourished by vampire blood to facilitate the transition—a vampire. The young adult gains immortality, speed, super-strength, blood-thirst, and other vampiric traits, including a vulnerability to sunlight that slowly decreases with age. There are several factions and clans, and at least one aberrant subspecies, all nominally ruled by a Vampire Queen. A fanatical vampire-hunting organization called Helios-Ra complicates the situation.

Solange, the first daughter born to the Drake clan in vampire memory, bears the burden of a prophecy that she's destined to rule her kind, a status she emphatically rejects. On the verge of her sixteenth birthday, she's plagued by unwanted suitors. Irresistible vampire pheromones make matters worse. Her best friend, Lucy, is a human teenager whose hippy-spiritual, back-to-nature parents don't seem to mind that she associates with bloodsucking creatures of the night, who, to be fair, live on animal blood. They drink from human donors rarely and only by consent. Lucy and Solange narrate the story in alternate first-person chapters. Solange's family learns a bounty has been placed on her. The Drake clan has a tenuous truce with Helios-Ra, which this development threatens to unravel. The Vampire Queen targets Solange out of jealousy, since the Queen can't fathom the idea that a young female would not want to usurp the throne. Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Kieran Black, a newly trained agent of Helios-Ra, whose father was killed by vampires, tries to attack Solange and her family. Kidnappings, escapes, pursuits, recaptures, and apparent betrayals throw him and Solange together. They fight a reluctant mutual attraction, and he begins to realize that not all vampires are alike and that most aren't ravening killers. At the same time, Lucy and Nicholas, one of Solange's many overprotective brothers, recognize feelings for each other that they've been denying.

This book is the first in a series, with plenty of sequel hooks. Fortunately, however, it has a satisfying, non-cliffhanger ending.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Vampire Stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Distinguished vampire literature bibliographer Robert Eighteen-Bisang edited this collection, titled simply VAMPIRE STORIES (2009). Sherlock Holmes fans unfamiliar with Doyle's many other works of fiction may enjoy exploring the lesser-known stories in this volume, which does include a few Holmes adventures as well. Eighteen-Bisang provides a short introduction about Doyle, focusing mainly on his friendship with Bram Stoker and occasional annoyance at being famed solely as the creator of the Great Detective. Each tale is followed by a few paragraphs of background and commentary about the story.

Sherlock Holmes's "Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" is here, of course, and after almost a century it's not much of a spoiler to reveal that the alleged vampirism has a natural explanation. The best-known non-Holmes piece is Doyle's classic novella of psychic vampirism, "The Parasite" (1891). Like the later DRACULA, this story explores the mysteries of hypnotism, the science of which was relatively new and esoteric at the time. The journal of the narrator, Professor Gilroy, reveals how he gradually falls under the spell of an unattractive yet strangely fascinating woman named Miss Penclosa, who not only drains his energy but forces him to perform humiliating and even criminal acts. According to the Gilroy, "She creeps into my form as the hermit crab creeps into the whelk's shell." He ultimately escapes her control by sheer luck.

Other energy vampire tales in this collection include "The Captain of the Pole-Star," "John Barrington Cowles," and "The Winning Shot." "The Ring of Thoth" stars the resurrected mummy of an Egyptian priest, granted immortality by a magical elixir. "The American's Tale" features a blood-drinking plant similar to H. G. Wells's strange orchid and other predatory plants in late-19th-century fiction. "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client" and "The Adventure of the Three Gables" impress me as vampiric only in a metaphorical sense, although Eighteen-Bisang's afterword to the former lists a longish catalog of intriguing parallels to DRACULA. The editor pads out the collection with a concluding story not written by Doyle, a Holmes pastiche, "The Case of the Vanished Vampire," by Bill Crider, in which Bram Stoker meets the Great Detective. The volume wraps up with a valuable resource for fans of Victorian horror and mystery, an annotated bibliography of fiction by other authors in which Sherlock Holmes confronts vampires.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Friday, November 15, 2019

Dying in Bangkok

Dan Simmons, author of CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (1992; reviewed here in December 2014), wrote several other pieces of vampire fiction. Simmons' "Dying in Bangkok" (1993), included in his story collection LOVEDEATH, uses eroticism, addiction, and art as background for predation by superficially human alien vampires. The narrator, Dr. Merrick, suffering from AIDS, tells the double story of his first visit to Bangkok, on R and R from Vietnam in 1970, and his final return there to die in 1992. As a young soldier in 1970, Merrick, like most of his comrades, knows only a few crude phrases of Vietnamese, enough to negotiate for sexual favors. He is even more ignorant of Thailand. His sexual naivete (he has yet to plumb the mysteries of oral sex and gives no thought to using condoms during his encounters with prostitutes) mirrors his insular attitude toward foreign cultures. Merrick's best friend Tres (pronounced "Tray") serves as a bridge to the alien world of the Far East. He speaks fluent Vietnamese and delves eagerly into the exotic culture of Bangkok. Tres escorts Merrick on a pilgrimage to a heart of darkness, symbolized by movement from the familiar to the foreign, from ersatz American to the Orient. They progress from the enclave set aside for American soldiers and a "flophouse hotel" with prostitutes in the lobby to more exotic attractions such as a "no-hands bar," then from this relatively safe red-light district into the areas seldom seen by Westerners, by way of a hired boat along the "narrow one-way klongs [canals]" with their "blind turns" and "sagging bridges" hazardous with "rotting timbers" and a near-collision with "a high pier with its tall pilings rising ahead of us like a slammed portcullis." Merrick gapes in wonder at a "blackened mass" of "tumbledown shacks and half-sunken sampans," unable to comprehend that, "People live in those." Images of strangeness, decay, and entrapment overshadow the journey.

It culminates on a barge where Mara, a nonhuman creature who feeds blood, mouth-to-mouth like a female bat, to her baby daughter, performs in a grotesque sex show where she draws nourishment from willing victims. Men pay exorbitant fees for the privilege of exposing themselves to audiences while Mara's bizarrely long, prehensile tongue with its razor-edged suckers drains blood from their penises. The ecstasy of this experience overrides pain and fear. Reflecting on Mara's species later, Merrick realizes they must secrete an anticoagulant like leeches and vampire bats. The baby reminds him of an "almost embryonic" infant kangaroo, and he compares the lesions on the victim's penis to the marks left by jellyfish stings. Mara's feeding clearly has addictive properties, since Tres, although he returns to the hotel with dangerous bleeding from his genitals, is determined to repeat the experience. Merrick blames himself for being unable to restrain his friend from self-destruction. Although Merrick learns a local name for these creatures, yellow-eyed phanyaa mahn naga kio—"demon-human incarnate" beings indwelt by the spirit of the serpentine naga—he knows they're not literally demons but products of natural evolution. Unlike many fictional vampires, they aren't ancient and powerful but vulnerable to disease and death, and they appear to age at a human rate. Merrick's animal imagery portrays them as subhuman rather than superhuman. He regards their human appearance as a mere facade, so killing them would be justified.

As a soldier in Vietnam, he couldn't admit his homosexuality even to himself. By the time he returns to Bangkok in 1992, he still has never publicly come out of the closet. At that point, he knows the city and its language and customs. As a sophisticated traveler, he compares and contrasts Bangkok with his home, Los Angeles, both metropolises ironically known as "City of the Angels," both in the throes of mob violence. He visualizes Bangkok as doomed to an apocalyptic AIDS plague. Having spent twenty-two years searching for Mara and her now grown daughter, he has tracked them down to use his own infected blood as a means of expiating his sense of guilt by avenging the death of Tres.

This novella combines an exotic Asian setting with a fascinating glimpse of humanoid but nonhuman vampires, whose predation blends seduction with horror. Vampire fans who don't mind a bit of gruesomely explicit imagery should appreciate this story. I've analyzed it in greater detail in my nonfiction book DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN, which you can find here:

Different Blood

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

V Is for Vampire

Renowned vampire film authority David J. Skal published an alphabetical guide to vampire-related movies, books, TV, and other media, V IS FOR VAMPIRE (1996). Despite the subtitle, THE A-Z GUIDE TO EVERYTHING UNDEAD, this book isn't really an encyclopedia. For that, you want J. Gordon Melton's THE VAMPIRE BOOK (Third Edition, 2011). Skal's entries represent an idiosyncratic compilation of topics he wants to highlight. The sole item under X is "Xenophobia," and under Y, "Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn." (If Y merits only one entry, that's an excellent choice.) Categories referenced include authors, actors, films, opera, literature, folkloric creatures, fictional characters, historical persons, and wide variety of miscellaneous subjects.

Some examples: blood, bat, fetus, lamia, Theda Bara, Sigmund Freud, cannibalism, Carpathian Mountains, cloaks and capes, Vampirella, rabid, rape, Highgate Cemetery, Edmund Blake (the first stage actor to play Count Dracula in the iconic cape), fangs, Barnabas Collins, and Charles Darwin, as well as obligatory topics such as Bela Lugosi, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and many stage and screen adaptations of DRACULA. With an introduction titled "Vampires, Descending a Staircase," the text is written in Skal's usual witty style. It's embellished with numerous reproductions of book illustrations and movie posters and stills. The volume concludes with an extensive filmography beginning in 1896, a list of vampires and vampirelike creatures, a chronological list of novels beginning in 1847, and a selected bibliography of nonfiction and anthologies.

Strangely, this handsome trade paperback is out of print, but many inexpensive used copies are available. All devoted vampire fans should have it on their shelves.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Dracula: Sense and Nonsense

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, renowned author of many academic works on Bram Stoker's DRACULA, wrote an informative, scholarly, yet accessible and lively book debunking the many prevalent misconceptions about Stoker, the novel, and the vampire Count, DRACULA: SENSE AND NONSENSE (2000). Most sections of this book respond to direct quotes from previous authors, deconstructing their claims and documenting errors with evidence from primary sources, such as Bram Stoker's working notes for DRACULA. As Miller repeatedly mentions, the discovery of the Notes should have slain many of the widely believed inaccuracies once and for all, yet they keep rising from the grave.

Chapter topics: The sources for DRACULA; Stoker and the writing of DRACULA; the novel; the geography of DRACULA; Vlad the Impaler. The final chapter, "Source Alert," surveys the most significant biographies, commentaries, and annotated editions with comments on their usefulness and reliability (or lack thereof). The volume also includes a sixteen-page bibliography and an index, and each chapter has footnotes. It's interesting to see how often speculation by a single commentator gets repeated over and over until it becomes mistaken for fact; many critics preface their guesses with "undoubtedly" or "certainly." Which real person was Count Dracula based on, if any? Unknown, but all the Count's important traits can be found in folklore and fiction available to Stoker. In any case, the vampire wasn't based on Vlad. Did Stoker conduct research on an in-person trip to Transylvania? No. Did Stoker get information about vampires from Sir Richard Burton or Arminius Vambery? Probably not, since there's no evidence to that effect, and all the historical, geographic, and folkloric elements in the novel have identifiable sources in books we know Stoker consulted. Did Stoker have syphilis? At best, an unsubstantiated hypothesis. Is Bran Castle the "real" Castle Dracula (an idea exploited by the Romanian tourist industry)? Absolutely not. Was Lucy's burial site modeled on Highgate Cemetery? Uncertain. Is the Count confined to his grave by day? Definitely not. On these and many other questions, Miller meticulously and entertainingly distinguishes fact from hearsay, plausible speculation, wild guesses, unsupported interpretations, and demonstrable falsehoods. Moreover, she readily admits her own past misstatements when applicable.

The book's Amazon page:

Dracula: Sense and Nonsense

Frustratingly and strangely, the regular Amazon search doesn't turn it up (at least, not on the first few pages or on Miller's author page); I had to unearth it indirectly through a Google search.

After all these years, some of those mistaken beliefs remain in circulation, especially the apparently unkillable notion that Stoker had extensive knowledge of Vlad the Impaler and explicitly based his fictional character on Vlad's life. So DRACULA: SENSE AND NONSENSE is still relevant to Dracula studies today and indispensable for any serious student or devoted fan of the novel.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Vampire in Europe

Most dedicated vampire fans are probably aware of Montague Summers, an eccentric scholar of folklore and Gothic literature who wrote in the first half of the 20th century. He claimed to be a Roman Catholic priest, although (from what I've read) there's no clear evidence that he was in fact ordained after converting from the Anglican Church to Catholicism. One of his peculiarities was an apparently sincere belief in witchcraft and, possibly, other supernatural phenomena; in his book on the history of witchcraft, he seems to uncritically accept the claims of the authorities who persecuted witches. He also wrote about werewolves as well as the development of the Gothic novel and other literary subjects. He's best known for his two volumes on vampires, THE VAMPIRE: HIS KITH AND KIN (1928) and THE VAMPIRE IN EUROPE (1929). The first book, which defines the term "vampire" more broadly than some later specialists agree with, ranges all over the world from antiquity onward. It begins with chapters on "The Origin of the Vampire" and "The Generation of the Vampire," which deal with diverse subjects such as ancient and medieval legends, bloodthirsty serial killers, necrophilia, and the psychological roots of vampirism. The chapter on "Traits and Practice" explores the characteristics of vampires and ways of controlling or destroying them. "The Vampire in Assyria, the East, and Some Ancient Countries" delves further into the mythology of specific creatures. The final chapter, "The Vampire in Literature," comprises an exhaustive survey of fiction up through DRACULA and the play adapted from the novel, in both its British and American versions. THE VAMPIRE: HIS KITH AND KIN includes footnotes, an index, and an extensive bibliography.

Several of Summers' works are available on Amazon at reasonable prices, including his books on werewolves and witchcraft as well as those on vampires. If you want to read THE VAMPIRE IN EUROPE, I recommend the critical edition (2014) edited by John Edgar Browning. This volume constitutes a facsimile reprint of the original, with auxiliary material including a preface by Browning and essays by Katherine Ramsland, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Gerard P. O'Sullivan, and Carol A. Senf. One feature indispensable to many if not most contemporary readers is an appendix that translates all the Greek and Latin quotations in the text. Other appendices include: reviews of and reactions to the book's original publication; a brief discussion of the "real vampire community"; an essay on energy vampirism; and highlights of Browning's research into contemporary vampire-related phenomena in New Orleans. Summers' chapters cover the following topics: (1) Ancient Greece and Rome; (2) England, Ireland, France, and Italy, with a brief excursion to 19th-century Rhode Island; (3) Hungary and Czechoslovakia; (4) modern Greece; (5) Russia, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Browning has also produced a critical edition of THE VAMPIRE: HIS KITH AND KIN (2011). Although Summers' works have been supplemented and in some cases superseded by later scholarship, the books are still worth reading. The abundance of ghastly details and the colorful reports of alleged historical vampire cases make these surveys of the bloodthirsty undead and their "kin" throughout the folklore of the world highly entertaining.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Among the many vampire anthologies edited by Martin H. Greenberg, the theme of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1992) is self-evident. This is a compilation of all-original stories about the vampire Count. The introduction by Stefan Dziemianowicz enthusiastically embraces the popular belief that Bram Stoker's novel was "derived from the exploits of a historical figure" (Vlad the Impaler), a position that has been thoroughly disproved (at least, so far as one can prove a negative). As renowned Dracula scholar Elizabeth Miller has demonstrated, there's no evidence that Stoker knew anything about the life of Vlad the Impaler other than a short passage in one research source, which doesn't even mention the "Impaler" nickname. As Stoker's working notes show, he didn't come across this reference until he'd already started planning the novel, whose villain was originally called "Count Wampyr." Dziemianowicz's assumption can be pardoned, however, considering the date of this anthology. The rest of the introduction discusses the character of Dracula, his influence, and the roots of readers' fascination with him.

The stories, by a host of distinguished horror authors, range over several centuries, some from the viewpoint of the vampire lord's enemies or victims, some told through his own eyes. A few highlights: In Bentley Little's "Hard Times," we follow Dracula through a modern city as he contemplates his fall from his glorious past to the status of a mere scavenger. A not-very-nice motel night manager in "Dracuson's Driver," by Richard Laymon, assaults a female guest who drives a hearse, to his intense regret. Matthew J. Costello, in "Deep Sleep," narrates how the Count survives the disaster of the Titanic by retreating to his coffin and hibernating on the ocean floor. (If every character portrayed in film and fiction as sailing on the Titanic were really aboard, no wonder they ran out of lifeboats.) "The Black Wolf," by Wendi Lee and Terry Beatty, places Dracula in the nineteenth-century American West. The narrator of Warner Lee's "Cult" attempts to rescue (or retrieve) a victim from a sinister organization. Douglas Borton's "Voivode" comprises the journal of a screenwriter touring Romania and visiting Dracula's castle. F. Paul Wilson's "The Lord's Work," which features a vampire-slaying nun, eventually formed part of his novel MIDNIGHT MASS, set in a world overrun by the undead. The anthology concludes with "Like a Pilgrim to the Shrine," by Brian Hodge, in which an ambitious young vampire tracks down the legendary Dracula.

My favorite story in the book, "The Wind Breathes Cold," by P. N. Elrod, became the first chapter of her delightful "good guy vampire" novel QUINCEY MORRIS, VAMPIRE (which I reviewed here in July 2013).

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Trouble in the Forest

Under the pen name "Trystam Kith," Chelsea Quinn Yarbro wrote a pair of vampire novels very different from her Saint-Germain series. In the "Trouble in the Forest" duology, set during the reign of King Richard the Lionhearted, while his brother Prince John ruled England in Richard's absence, Yarbro presents familiar legendary characters from a new and strange perspective. Prince John is portrayed as an intelligent, highly educated, just ruler instead of a villain, the Sheriff of Nottingham is the hero, and Robin Hood and his Merry Men are—vampires.

The first volume, A COLD SUMMER NIGHT (2004), begins as Hugh deSteny, Sheriff of Nottingham under the lordship of Sir Gui deGisbourne, receives a dreadful report from a forest warden. A family of humble crofters has been slaughtered. Upon viewing the crime scene, Hugh immediately suspects something worse than human murderers. A former Crusader, he saw strange things in the Holy Land, so he knows of the living dead who drink blood. From priests of the Greek church, he learned how to deal with those creatures. Further attacks convince him that his first assumption is true, and he strives to protect his people against the undead who haunt the forest. The outlaws are cunning as well as bloodthirsty and strong, however, and several groups of travelers fall to them, including even armed men forewarned of the danger. We see how Alan a Dale, Little John, and Friar Tuck (here called simply the Red Friar, for the color of his order's habit) get captured and converted. Although these vampires are diabolically evil in the traditional way, they have intelligence and personalities. The Friar tries to resist his change into a creature of the Devil, only to discover that he can no longer pray or handle holy objects and that the craving for blood is inexorable.

Matters become worse when Sir Gui insists on having his prospective bride, Marian, escorted to him through the forest by an inadequate contingent of guards. Once captured by "Hood" and his band, Marian takes to her new life with relish. She didn't have much enthusiasm for her arranged marriage to a man she'd never met anyway. Hugh struggles to make Sir Gui understand the true danger of the outlaws, while coping with other obstructions to carrying out his duty. The book ends as Sir Gui prepares to carry out his scheme of trapping Hood and his gang with an archery contest.

Book II, A BRIGHT WINTER SUN (2004), completes the tale. As one would expect from a veteran author of historical horror such as Yarbro, "Trystam Kith" vividly renders the environment and culture of early medieval England, with the ever-present threats that lurk in the wild forest lying in wait just outside the towns, monasteries, and citadels or off the well-traveled roads. Hugh deSteny is a believable, sympathetic character, and the other people in the story have credible goals and motives, including Robin Hood's undead band. The term "vampire" doesn't appear until about halfway through the book, perhaps anachronistically, since the word wasn't recorded in English until the 1730s; by the time it pops up, however, the reader has become immersed deeply enough in the story to allow the author this license.

Margaret L. Carter

Explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.