Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

Recommended Books

August 1993

"The Vampire-as-Good-Guy Story

as Intimate Adventure
Part I "

Forever Knight, tv pilot episode

Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly, $4.50, Del Rey, 1988.

Yellow Fog by Les Daniels, Donald M. Grant, (West Kingston, Rhode Island 02892), 1986.

Vampire Notes by Robert Arthur Smith, $3.95, Fawcett Gold Medal, 1989.

The Vampire Files: Bloodlist, Lifeblood, BloodCircle, Art in the Blood, Fire in the Blood, all by P. N. Elrod, Ace, March 1990, to June 1991 $3.50 to $3.95.

Blood Hunt & Bloodlinks both by Lee Killough, Tor, 1988 and 1989

Mark of the Werewolf by Jeffrey Sackett, $3.95, Bantam 1990.

Dracula, The Vampire and the Critics edited by Margaret L. Carter, U.M.I. Research Press, an imprint of University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor, MI 48106. 1988.

Shattered Glass, Blood Rites, Daughter of the Night, Elaine Bergstrom, Jove '89, '91, '92. And there's another I don't have, Blood Alone.

I continue to discover books which belong to the already existent but unrecognized genre which I have labeled, in my first two columns for Monthly Aspectarian, Intimate Adventure. This time I'm going to discuss the Vampire Genre backlist of Good-Guy Stories, and next time I'll focus on some of the newer vampire novels.

To be Intimate Adventure, a story's plot development must take place on the field of intimacy, not the field of combat. A version of my article describing Intimate Adventure has been published elsewhere, and commentary has centered on the name I chose for this unrecognized genre.

Many people feel that "Intimate" is synonymous with sex, or at least romance/love. This is the semantic loading our society puts on the word intimate. Challenging the unspoken assumptions underlying our semantics is what the initiatory path is all about. The vampire-as-good-guy challenges one such assumption by asking whether an Initiate, sworn to the Light, must yield to the darkness without question and without struggle.

Intimate Adventure is not typical women's fiction, such as the commercial Romance genre. Intimate Adventure is, like science fiction's Action/Adventure, a subgenre of Heroic fiction where the protagonists must take charge of their own lives and of the situation, taking personal responsibility for the results of their actions, and often displaying a heroic attitude toward risk, especially the risk of pain.

Nowhere in the commercial press is this new genre better represented than among the new kind of Vampire novel, the Vampire as protagonist, as "good-guy/gal," as the sympathetic Vampire struggling to live honorably despite his nature. These books can not be classified as Horror, and rarely rely on supernatural elements exclusively, and so have begun to make fans out of readers who shun the ordinary vampire novel.

The "good vampire" was best typified by the tv pilot that failed to make series in 1989, NICK KNIGHT, a vampire detective working with a police pathologist to find a way to remove his curse. He watched the sunrise on closed circuit tv every morning while drinking preserved blood rewarmed in the microwave.

Such a vampire needs the kind of ferocious raw courage that typifies the Intimate Adventure Hero (male or female, such protagonists are Heros) just to associate with humans. In the case of Nick Knight, he falls in love with a mortal woman, an archeologist at a prestigious museum who finds Nick's picture in an old text. He has a devil of a time preventing himself from killing her when he's aroused.

The failed pilot/movie was finally made into the Crime Time After Prime Time series on CBS called Forever Knight. It is one of my all-time favorite tv series because it openly explores the relationship between the vampire struggling to find a cure for his condition and the pathologist he is trying not to fall in love with. (They dropped the museum curator in the pilot for the series.) The show was tremendously successful because it typified all the vampire novels of this new fragment of a genre -- the "good" vampire.

Barbara Hambly, whose literary masterpieces include numerous examples of Intimate Adventure, captures the essence of the vampire story in Those Who Hunt the Night, where the vampires are being hunted down by mortals, so the vampires must turn to a mortal for help. Throughout the book, it is an open question whether the vampires will find it necessary to kill the mortal they've enlisted because he comes to know their secrets.

To complicate matters, the first approach to the mortal is made by threatening his wife if he doesn't cooperate. This is a typical ploy of the cowardly and insecure who consider the stakes too great to risk intimacy. But in the end, the eldest of the vampires comes to know his human assistant well enough to make it unnecessary to kill him. And so he doesn't kill him. This, it seems, is in gratitude for the revitalizing effect the human has had on the vampires, for they have wakened from long lethargy to possess themselves of the camouflaging skills needed in the 20th century. Or is it just because the vampire liked and admired the human? Did the hero win because he was able to allow intimacy -- even with a cold blooded killer?

Those Who Hunt The Night, like the truly great literature of the ages, poses many more questions than it answers, and those questions examine the foundations of human society. It also, delightfully, ends with room for sequels.

On a somewhat darker note, there is Les Daniels' Yellow Fog, which is a story about the ongoing vampire character Don Sebastian de Villanueva of The Black Castle, The Silver Skull, and Citizen Vampire. Yellow Fog is set in Victorian London, where Don Sebastian discovers the horrifying and shocking lengths that mortals may go to in search of satisfaction. Les Daniels presents a vampire who is at once both classically horrifying and still oddly sympathetic.

No Blood Spilled, by Les Daniels, Tor, 1991, is also about Don Sebastian, this time in India where he tangles with a cult of Kali. This novel explores the intimacy generated by an oath of revenge against the vampire.

And in this tradition, 1989 produced Vampire Notes by Robert Arthur Smith, where a vampire named Mornay, who became a vampire simply and only because he committed suicide, tries to create a magical ceremony (in the form of a stage play) that will restore to him the woman who committed suicide with him.

This novel is a classically beautiful "deal with the Devil" story from the point of view of the human protagonist hired to produce and star in the play. He finds himself falling in love with the vampire's daytime helper, a female werewolf. Via the intimacy of that relationship, and the courage it takes to transcend it, the producer comes to attempt to kill the vampire as he sleeps by day.

But he does not succeed, the dress rehearsal of the play goes on in its format as a magical ceremony, and the dead woman materializes. Then things get extremely interesting, for the vampire's judgement was off in a very human way.

Though the material is darker than I normally like, and the individual characters not the sort I'd choose as friends, still the relationships depicted between them are vibrant and clear. This is a psychological study easily on a par with Barbara Hambly's, and proves that men can write Intimate Adventure.

Bloodlist is by P. N. Elrod, who is a Dark Shadows fan. (Dark Shadows was a tv soap opera about a likeable vampire in New England which ran for several years in the 70's and now has its own fan conventions, tape trading, fanzines, and tv reincarnation which is an even better example of Intimate Adventure, about the private affairs of a vampire.)

Bloodlist also seems to owe something to Lee Killough's excellent Intimate Adventure series Blood Hunt and Bloodlinks.

Both authors have begun with a mortal man turned into a vampire by a woman who remains off stage for most of the story. The vampire then has adventures trying to find her again. Killough's protagonist becomes a vampire while a cop in a big city and stays a cop. Elrod's protagonist is a newspaper reporter, Jack Flemming, who becomes a private eye in Chicago during mob-ruled decades.

Flemming had consented to be turned into a vampire. His vampire lover then had to leave because someone was hunting her. She promised to return when she was safe, but hadn't come back after five years.

So Flemming goes to Chicago during the years of the mobs, looking for work as a reporter. Instead, he wakes up dead on the shore of the lake without a clue about who killed him. Because his vampire lover had left him, he knows only part of what he needs to know to survive as a vampire.

Before long, he's betrayed himself to an amateur vampire hunter -- a mortal who befriends and instructs him. Together, they tackle the mob boss who killed Flemming. And they win.

In the next book Lifeblood (June '90), Flemming is still hunting his maker while vampire hunters are after him. And in the following book, Bloodcircle (Oct. '90) Flemming finally discovers others of his own kind. The Intimate Adventure continues as he searches for the woman who made him a vampire, and whom he loved, but it flags a bit in Art in the Blood (Feb. 91) when that search is apparently ended. Fire in the Blood, June '91 picks up the pace again as we see Flemming beginning to withdraw from full intimacy with humans. He begins to have problems restraining himself from killing humans who come under his hypnotic power when he's hungry. He can't bring himself to discuss this with either the human woman who is his lover or the detective friend who has become his employer. He temporizes by deciding not to let himself get too hungry.

We all know about how well that solution is going to work for a detective in the Chicago of the Gangs. I understand several more books in this series have been contracted and there is another due soon in 1993.

Both Killough and Elrod have produced Intimate Adventure wrapped in the most attractive and unobtrusive Action format, using likeable vampires who try to live with the vampire curse without hurting anyone who isn't trying to kill them.

In a different vein -- ahum! -- we have a werewolf novel which, for me, just about defines the essence of the werewolf novel, Mark of the Werewolf by Jeffrey Sackett. Here we have an author who tiptoes carefully around the edges of Intimate Adventure. The novel goes from slaughter to blood to slaughter, and revolves around a plot by neo-Nazis who want to capture and use a werewolf to infect soldiers and make them werewolves in order to take over the U.S. Most of the wordage is devoted to gratuitous violence and ugly visions of humanity.

But all of that gratuitous violence, destruction, and ugliness is just window dressing, a commercially acceptable vehicle to carry a story much more profound. If you can stomach the blood and violence, you'll find a poignant, vibrant, heartrending and tender story of a Zoroastrian priest of before the time of Jesus who was bitten by a werewolf because he committed the sin of moral cowardice.

Such a moral sin puts a mark on the sinner's forehead which attracts werewolves and compels them to bite. The bite produces the werewolf condition. The curse can be overcome only by overcoming the cowardice and committing an act of moral courage. Once that happens, the werewolf is allowed to die.

But meantime, usually thousands of years, the werewolf lives so long with so much hideous trauma month after month, that amnesia inevitably sets in. Eventually, the werewolf can't even remember his or her own name, or how they came to be a werewolf.

Trapped in this condition, it's virtually impossible to figure out how to break the curse, but the werewolf yearns to die. Such a werewolf is the main protagonist of Sackett's novel, and the novel is the story of how he regains his memory and beats the curse. It is done with the aid of a dedicated mortal friend, the husband of a woman the werewolf killed. And it is done with the aid of a new mortal friend, an innocent caught up in the neo-Nazi scheme.

The makings of a great Intimate Adventure are here, but you'll have to imagine it between the lines. For my taste, the novel would have been much improved by deleting the neo-Nazis and dealing directly with the intimacy necessary to effect a cure for the werewolf, for moral courage is an essential ingredient in all Intimate Adventure.

I would watch Jeffrey Sackett as a writer, especially if he manages to get out of the horror genre and into a genre where he can devote more space to the story. But apparently his next novel was a vampire novel, Blood of the Impaler, which promises to have something new to say about vampires via a grandson of Vlad the Impaler. Unfortunately, I missed this one completely, or I'd tell you about it.

And last, for those who get obsessive about the subjects that interest them, as I sometimes do, we have a scholarly work, Dracula, The Vampire and the Critics, edited by a dedicated fan and writer of vampire stories, Margaret L. Carter. This is a group of essays about Dracula, fiction and fact, which takes a no-holds-barred approach to sexuality in vampire literature, and is a must-read for anyone planning to launch a career writing vampire stories.

Margaret L. Carter is a name to memorize because she also does compilations such as a list of all vampire novels yet published. She's thorough. I can vouch for that because she even included my novel, Those of My Blood, which has only been published in hardcover by St. Martin's and is currently unavailable.

The vampire novel by Elaine Bergstrom, Blood Rites from Jove Dec. '91 is the third in the series she started with Shattered Glass, (Jove, '89) about a family of vampires who've made their living through the ages making stained glass for cathedrals. Their vampirism isn't the standard sort and allows for much more Intimate Adventure.

More recently, Daughter of the Night, (Jove Oct. 92) continues the tale. Bergstrom's novels have my unreserved recommendation as much for her unique theory of vampirism as for her vampire-family's method of coping with their condition down through the ages. And if you like historical touches like the history of stained glass making, you'll really love these novels. Imagine vampires who are the primary artisans responsible for the stained glass in the great cathedrals of Europe!

Books for review in this column -- which contains no negative reviews -- should be sent to Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, New York, 10952.



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