(This 15-day series was originally posted to Kobo’s Writing Life blog. Now that the series has run its course, I’m reposting it here, one day at a time, in case my regular readers missed it the first time around. Enjoy!)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’re going to be spending the next two weeks looking at some of my favorite horror reads for the Halloween season. For those of you just joining us, note that I won’t be covering the classics (Poe, Lovecraft, Stoker, etc) or the bestselling favorites (King, Koontz, Rice, etc) but will be focusing instead on some writers and books that you might not be familiar with or may have even overlooked.
We started our series by looking at two fabulous coming of age books and today we’re going to focus on two terrific vampire tales. I’m not talking about the shiny, sparkly Twilight vamps nor your oversexed True Blood variety of bloosuckers. To catch my attention, vampires need to be pretty damn vicious and we find them living up to that requirement in both of today’s selections.
All the official reports say they are dead-extinct since the late ’80s, when a fed named Arkeley nailed the last vampire in a fight that nearly killed him. But the evidence proves otherwise.
When a state trooper named Caxton calls the FBI looking for help in the middle of the night, it is Arkeley who gets the assignment-who else? He’s been expecting such a call to come eventually. Sure, it has been years since any signs of an attack, but Arkeley knows what most people don’t: there is one left. In an abandoned asylum she is rotting, plotting, and biding her time in a way that only the undead can.
Caxton is out of her league on this case and more than a little afraid, but the fed made it plain that there is only one way out. But the worst thing is the feeling that the vampires want more than just her blood. They want her for a reason, one she can’t guess; a reason her sphinxlike partner knows but won’t say; a reason she has to find out-or die trying.
Now there are only 13 bullets between Caxton and Arkeley and the vampires. There are only 13 bullets between us, the living, and them, the damned.
Way back in 2007, author David Wellington released the first of what was to become his five-book series featuring state trooper-turned-vampire-hunter Laura Caxton, 13 BULLETS. I didn’t discover it until around 2009 or so but when I did I went from one volume to the next as quickly as I could. There is nothing seductive or enticing about these vamps. They are vicious killing machines and that’s just the way I like them. Wellington weaves a hard-driving tale full of explosive action filled with characters that are down-to-earth and authentic in every way, making it one you don’t want to miss!
Earlier this year Crossroad Press released the 25th anniversary edition of the novel that kicked of the splatterpunk movement back in the late nineteen eighties. I’m talking, of course, about John Skipp and Craig’s Spector’s THE LIGHT AT THE END, a fan favorite and my second of two recommendations for vampire novels worth your time and attention.
The newspapers scream out headlines that spark terror across the city. Ten murders on the New York City subway. Ten grisly crimes that defy all reason — no pattern, no m.o., no leads for police to pursue. The press dubs the fiend the “Subway Psycho”; the NYPD desperately seeks their quarry before the city erupts in mass hysteria. But they won’t find what they’re looking for.
Because they all think that the killer is human.
Only a few know the true story — a story the papers will never print. It is a tale of abject terror and death written in grit and steel… and blood. The tale of a man who vanished into the bowels of the urban earth one night, taken by a creature of unholy evil, then left as a babe abandoned on the doorstep of Hell. Now he is back, driven by twin demons of rage and retribution.
He is unstoppable. And we are all his prey… unless a ragtag band of misfit souls will dare to descend into a world of manmade darkness, where the real and unreal alike dwell in endless shadow. A place where humanity has been left behind, and the horrifying truth will dawn as a madman’s chilling vendetta comes to light…
This was the first of six collaborations that Skipp & Spector did together. I enjoyed most of them, but this one will always be my favorite. With more than a million copies in print, you might have caught this the first time around but I’d recommend going back and giving it another go. Even after twenty-five years, it’s excellence still shines through.
Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.
You can find him online at Shades of Reality.