Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blood County

Despite its lurid cover, BLOOD COUNTY (1981), by Curt Selby, is worth a look. A vampire lord rules the isolated community of Blood, West Virginia. The hereditary Lamprou bloodline is headed by Duquieu, unknown centuries old, to whom the townspeople pay homage—and regular blood donations—in exchange for protection. The ruthless Duquieu occasionally ravishes human women. Clint Breen, the offspring of one such union, left Blood in his youth to put his monstrous heritage behind him. Now, at the urging of his adoptive human father, he goes home, although the laws of Blood decree that nobody who leaves can return without Duquieu's permission. There Clint discovers that his half-brother, Jared, has become as cruel and bloodthirsty as their father. A reporter, Portia Clark, who follows Clint to Blood in search of a news story, runs into danger. Clint must fight his father and half-brother to protect Portia as well as his old girlfriend who stayed in Blood. Meanwhile, of course, he's also fighting his vampire nature. He has no desire to become the ruler of Blood County, but for everyone's good he has to destroy Duquieu and Jared, leaving a power vacuum to be filled. Can Clint defeat the vampire lord without becoming what he loathes?

When I first read this novel, I was very taken with the idea of a rural community in modern America ruled feudal style by a vampire. Everybody in town knows what the Lamprou is, yet they're resigned to living under his reign just as medieval peasants might have adjusted to a cruel but not intolerable lord. Clint's struggle with his heritage makes him an interesting and sympathetic character. The ending isn't exactly happy—this is definitely a horror novel—but I found it satisfying. BLOOD COUNTY provides an intriguing relatively early example of a reluctant, conflicted vampire of a unique type. The small town cut off from the outside world under the shadow of vampire domination is reminiscent of Stephen King's 'SALEM'S LOT (1975), but with a regional flavor of its own quite different from King's Maine setting.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

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