The Dead Travel Fast by Eric Nuzum

In his “Ridiculously Unnecessary Author’s Note,” Eric Nuzum makes sure the reader understands that although the events are real, some scenes are composite scenes; however, these composites do not change the basic facts. He also changes the names of real people and alters a few facts about these people so they won’t be embarrassed. Nuzum does make it perfectly clear that:

This is not a James Frey thing, I do not claim to have spent time in jail, saved drowning kittens, prevented a revolution, or whatever.

It is what it is.

The Dead Travel Fast simply is one of the most refreshing and hilarious books on vampires and vampire lore that I’ve read in some time. What began as a desire to write a history of the vampire soon turns into a quest to experience the vampire in all its cultural forms. Nuzum examines the vampire movement from top to bottom, juxtaposing fact with humor to look at why we are so fascinated by the vampire.

Nuzum informs the reader of the making of the novel Dracula and intersperses history with one of the most entertaining travelogues I’ve read in years. If you read nothing else, you must read the chapter entitled “I Don’t Believe in God: The Crucifix is to Keep Away Vampires” where the author travels to the land of the vampire and along the way deals with dog attacks, floods, possible amputation, and running out of hand sanitizer. Nuzum goes to Transylvania on a Dracula-themed tour with some unpredictable results.

It’s not all fun and games; Nuzum knows when to get serious as he chronicles vampire-themed murders across the globe. As the outsider looking in, he assesses the Goths who feel empowered by the vampire lifestyle they seek to emulate. Nuzum attends Goth clubs, Buffy the Vampire marathons, and haunted houses in his quest for what it means to be a vampire.

Check out the undead and the company they keep.

My rating:

The Girls with Games of Blood by Alex Bledsoe

It’s 1975 in Memphis, Tennessee, and Alex Bledsoe returns with his Memphis vampires for a novel filled with fast cars, rock and roll, and steamy southern nights. Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski has his eye on a car, and not just any car. He outmaneuvers a good old boy, Byron Cocker, to buy the 1973 Mach 1 Mustang of his dreams. Cocker is a former sheriff of some renown, who doesn’t appreciate being cheated by anyone, especially foreigners.

Cocker is determined to wrest the Mustang from Zginski, but Zginski has other worries. Life becomes more complicated when Patience Bolade, who poses as a folk singer, enters the scene. Zginski and the two young vampires he’s taken under his tutelage immediately recognize another vampire has entered their territory.

One of the infamous Bolade sisters, Patience has a history of her own in the form of a blood feud with her sister Prudence, also a vampire. Prudence has vowed to destroy Patience and anyone who stands in her way. Zginski, Leonardo, and Fauvette, soon find themselves drawn into the sisters’ feud with some surprising twists and disastrous results.

Bledsoe really hits his stride with his latest novel of love and betrayal amongst the undead. The pacing is superb and just when you’re sure you know how the plot will unfold, Bledsoe gives it a twist to keep you engaged.

Bledsoe’s characters are portrayed with layered personalities so that every scene reveals their inner struggles in more depth until you’re caught up in their lives and loves. Patience Bolade’s transition from dying woman to vampire evokes mystery beneath a full moon and remains the novel’s most poignant scene. Leonardo grapples with racism and his own motives as he seduces his latest victim while Fauvette tries to find her place in the world and Zginski’s life.

Zginski remains as repulsive as ever, unrepentant racist and misogynist — and those are his good qualities — but towards the end, Bledsoe gives you a clue that Zginski isn’t quite all that he seems, either. While the younger vampires seek to emulate their mentor’s stoic old world mentality, Zginski finds his humanity reawakening in ways that surprise even him.

Bledsoe ties it all together neatly and doesn’t miss a beat with either plot or prose. He serves up vampires for adult readers, so if you’re looking for horror with verve, check out The Girls with Games of Blood.

My rating: