Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book Recommendations

Chapter 1....As many of you will be aware I created a Top 100 films/TV list, drawn from the reviews I have posted on the blog. An anonymous commentator asked if I would a top 100 books – unfortunately the answer is no as there are far too many vampire books out there to make anything like a fair stab at a top 100. What I did promise to do was list a few recommended reads that haven’t had a book review or a classic literature piece on the blog yet. This is no definitive list – just the books/book series that sprang to mind when I thought about it.

Interview with the VampireInterview with the Vampire by Anne Rice seems like a good place to start. The beginning of her vampire chronicles this introduced the world to Louis and Lestat. The actual film of the book is quite accurate and so most will know the story. What I found astounding, when I read the first volumes long before the film, was how much you hated Lestat when reading from Louis’ point of view but how that feeling was flipped as, in the second volume – the Vampire Lestat, Lestat became the (anti)hero of the piece.

There is a problem with the books… certainly the first three – up to and including Queen of the Damned are excellent books. For me, however, the quality began to vary through the series. This was down to two things – firstly Anne Rice was clearly in love with Lestat and he became altogether too powerful for the books to maintain an overwhelming interest – to the point that he ceased to be the focus of several of the books eventually – and that, as a writer, she did have a bad habit with descriptive passages that could be summed up as 'why use 1 paragraph to describe something when 20 pages will do?' That said there is still much to be enjoyed in the entire series.

'Salem's LotAnother classic book is ’Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. This spawned two mini TV series, one in 1979 and the other in 2004. Both summoned the basic story but neither fully captured the book. The joy of ’Salem’s Lot is the minutiae of small town America that King explores before dashing it all apart in an extraordinary supernatural event. The illustrated edition has a few photographs scattered lightly through the pages but, more interestingly, it has two short stories – one after the fall of the town and one (very Lovecraftian) before the events.

Vampire junctionWhen I picked up S P Somtow’s Vampire Junction in a second hand book store I simply bought something about a vampire and, to be honest, suspected I would hate it. It was about a young boy rock star – Timmy Valentine – who also was a 2000 year old vampire. Then I started to read… After a few chapters I forced myself to put the book down and rushed back to the store to buy Valentine, the sequel, as I knew it was there and then ordered the third book Vanitas online. Extremely well written but, most interesting is the fact that Timmy himself seems to be a Jungian archetype – existing within our world. Somtow does very interesting things with the religious icon motif that dovetails with the Jungian aspects.

the Travelling Vampire ShowRichard Laymon wrote a few, unconnected with each other, vampire books. I have previously mentioned Out are the Lights as an Honourable Mention. There was Bite and the Stake but I have chosen to list the Travelling Vampire Show. Dwight and his friends Rusty and Slim want to go to a travelling show to see Valeria – a captive vampire – of course the fact that the show is for over 18s, it costs $10 each to get in (which they don’t have) and the show is at midnight – past curfew – is all a problem. The reason I have mentioned this book is that the vampire and the horror are secondary, what Laymon wrote was a powerful coming of age novel – well worth seeking out.

Throat SprocketsIt is worth listing a vampire book that has no vampires in it, indeed it doesn’t even mention vampires. Tim Lucas, author of the book of Renfield, brought us Throat Sprockets and I understand he had vampires in mind when he wrote the book – but the book is about throat fetishism. However we have an almost plague like spread of the fetish through a medium of film and a perfect capturing of the hunger the vampire feels redefined into a sexual fetish. So without having a vampire at all we have a nigh on perfect vampire book – kudos to Tim.

Fevre DreamMost will know of George RR Martin through his high fantasy series but he wrote a vampire novel entitled Fevre Dream. Those who do know his work will know what an excellent and evocative writer Martin is and this book is no exception. Set on the Mississippi and the paddle steamer the Fevre Dream, financed by a man with – shall we say – odd habits but he is not the one to fear.

World on BloodThe World on Blood by Jonathon Nasaw is a very different take on the vampire genre. Centred around a 12 step group for blood drinkers – a concept not too unusual in the genre – what makes this different is that our vampires are just ordinary people. However for these people blood is an actual drug, offering a very real and very potent high with aphrodisiacal effects and it is just as addictive for them as any other narcotic might be for the rest of the world. And someone really doesn’t want them to fall off the wagon…

A Taste of Blood WineLeaving the more real world books behind, Freda Warrington wrote a series of books beginning with A Taste of Blood Wine and followed by A Dance in Blood Velvet and the Dark Blood of Poppies. These have an unusual lore basis – the turning process for instance is very different – but what they are at the core are three of the most richly gothic vampire novels with a rich, passionate undertone. I have to say that the copy of A Dance in Blood Velvet, signed to me by Freda Warrington, is a pride of my collection. Warrington also wrote a Dracula sequel entitled Dracula – the Undead.

NecroscopeLast to be listed in this article, but not least, is Necroscope by Brian Lumley. This was the first of a five book series, which spawned several spin off series as well. The Necroscope is Harry Keogh and a Necroscope can speak with the dead. This volume follows Harry’s life from childhood to being a young adult, of him being drawn into e-branch (Britain’s paranormal spy agency) and issues with a KGB necromancer who gets infected with vampirism. However the vampire threat is much more dangerous and insidious than this volume might betray and as the series moves on we meet the Wamphyri – some of the deadliest vampires committed to paper. This is bloody, gory pulp and, as such, the books are a joy to read.


Al Bruno III said...

A good list... just out of curiosity have you read John Ajvide Lindqvist's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN? I picked up the book on the stregnth of the movie and I really enjoyed it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Al Bruno III - I certanly have - you can read my review here.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Looks like an interesting list!

I love coming across more vampire novels to read, unfortunately besides Lumley, Rice and Laymon my bookstores only carry mostly chick-lit vampire novels now such as Anita Blake etc. :(

Taste of Blood wine was an awesome book and yes their astral method of making vampires was weird yet unique, I liked the concept of the 'twins' too, how the one that was 'vague' was actually the body that grew back the head whilst the disembodied head grew back the body, and even though beheading is the only way to kill those vampires, a bathtub of blood would resurrect them! I hadn't managed to read the sequels and its been about 15 yrs since I read A Taste of Blood Wine so I wonder how I can hunt them down!

Interview and Necroscope are no brainers, and though I enjoy Anne Rice's vampire aesthetic I actually prefer the alien brutality of the Wamphyri!

A film adaptation script of the first Necroscope book has been floating around and I hope it never gets made because film makers could never bring Lumley's vision to justice (though some say his novel Ancient Khai of Khem was ripped off to create Stargate).

I've seen Fevre Dream floating around but haven't given it a chance because I was 'put off' by its steam-boat premise, but we have similar tastes in the vampire genre so next time I see it I'll pick it up.

So I'd like to add a few vampire novels to your list for recommendation if I may?

*Going through my bookcase and finding vampire novels I haven't read yet! such as THE GOLDEN by Lucius Shephard. Have you read that? I tend to pick up vampire books and put them in my bookcase for later devouring, and soometimes forget they are there!*

1. Nancy Baker's: THE NIGHT INSIDE and BLOOD and CHRYSANTHEMUMS was an enjoyable series, getting made a vampire by another in a prison so you could both escape was an interesting presence, and for Ardeth to really not know what she was getting herself into, and Japanese-gothic aesthetic was great.

2. Les Daniel's: YELLOW FOG and NO BLOOD SPILLED are short but sweet vampire novels seemlingly inspired by Count Varney's penny dreadfuls and I actually enjoyed the Vampire Sebastian as he is aware of his power and has no qualms about his lack of humanity, as it should be!

3. The RAVENLOFT Strahd Von Zarovich books are a treat, I love the concept of the land enshrouded in a inpenetrable fog due to Strahd's curse and how he tied the land to himself with his blood and his endless torment to re-acquire his love, though it was his murdered brother's betrothed! Guest stars such as Azalin and Lord Soth are entertaining.

4. The VLAD TAPES (Vlad Tepes haha)by Fred Saberhagen is a great series, good ol' Uncle Dracula helping out his family friends and what not. I get the most joy when other vampires tried to get the better of him not realising who he was! His team up with Sherlock Holmes was inventive!

That's all for now, about to curl up under a blanket and see if I like THE GOLDEN and perhaps re-read THE VLAD TAPES!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Gabriel

I haven't read the Golden to be honest.

I've read the Baker material but I haven't read the two Les Daniels you mention - I have read the black castle, the Silver Sull and citizen Vampire by him. I have several of the Ravenloft books but (hangs his head) I have still to read the Vlad Tapes.

I'm currently readin Twelve by Jasper Kent - a review will be forthcoming when I've finished reading it.

Slaine said...

For those of you who like to listen to your books now have Salem's Lot unabridged in their collection. This version is very well narrated by Ron McLarty.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers for that Slaine... the audible version of Dracula (which they gave away for free at one point when you signed up) was well worth listening to...

I'd also recommend, if folks can find it, the BBC audio dramatisation of Salem's Lot with Doug Bradley

Zahir al Daoud said...

The Golden is a pretty remarkable novel. And I'll admit to a continued fandom for Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Zahir. I like anno dracula also (as well as the following bloody red baron and judgement of tears/dracula cha cha cha)

Jamie Bartlett said...

Something for your book section: If you're interested in finding more out about Elizabeth Bathory, a great book to read is "Bathory: Memoir of a Countess".

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Jamie, I'll keep an eye out

Anonymous said...

Hi I'd like to suggest another vampire novel that seems to have sunk in media oblivion The Vampire Tapestry by Suzi McKee Charnas. This novel isn't a romance by any stretch of the imagination and does have a particularly good vampire.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Vamplit - believe it or not that is on my amazon wishlist!

It'll be bought eventually!

Cheers for the suggestion.

House of Karnstein said...

Martin's Fevre Dream is so wonderful, what a great vampire novel! Easily, in my all-time top 5
vamp books and I wholeheartedly second Taliesin's recommendation. I'd love to see this brought to the
movie screen one day or I'd even settle for a TV production.

Damon of the baddest vamps in all of vamp horror fiction..unforgettable!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It is a cracker, helped by the fact that Martin is such a good writer.

Gabriel said...

@ House of Karnstein

May I add that FEVRE DREAM is currently adapted as a comic book series (by Avatar Press) if you are so inclined, so rush to your local comic store to get it. I think it's up to issue 5, or you can wait for the Trade Paperback version later on.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabe, I didn't know that myself - rubs hands and waits for the trade paperback!

Gabriel said...

To be honest, I haven't read the story, and I discovered the comic a little to late in its run, but from what I've seen the art looks quite good....from first impression it's got that Ricean feel?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It will always get that sort of comparison, given that it is set on the Mississipi (and one character is a tad Louis-ish) but Martin is a far superior prose writer than Rice

House of Karnstein said...


I appreciate the heads-up on this, I had no idea but you can bet I will be checking into it. Thanks.