BITE ME – Thoughts on Vampires

Vampire-Bite-vampires-12616213-480-600    In my email notifications of bargain and free books available on Amazon, is the offer of H.T. Night’s 8-Book Vampire Box Set for only $.99.  I’m not much of a vampire storyline fan, although I can understand the appeal — I think.  So this generous offer of 8 vampire-themed books for less than a buck got me thinking about the genre in general and what about it calls us to write it and read it.

The idea of creatures who exist by feeding on others, that is, the idea of drinking the victim’s blood, is an old one, and Wiki tells us that this  persistent mythology may even go back as far as prehistoric times.  The evolution of the belief that the blood drinker was somehow magical, the blood giving them eternal or almost eternal life, was probably based on the reality of a number of creatures who do attack other creatures for their blood – vampire bats, and this nifty collection  http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/13-vampire-animals/vampire-squid of creatures, most of which are insects.

The vampires were originally thought to be demons.  It is only since the 18th century that the vampire has moved out of demonhood into personhood.  Well, maybe ‘personhood’ is not quite right, but ‘personalityhood’ might describe it.   Today’s vampires are suave, charismatic and dare I say it, charming.   But in the past, they were always frightening, disgusting and revolting.  Today’s literary vampires often are trying to not give in to their baser instincts, and to buy cow’s blood and store it in their refrigerator,  have night jobs, and sleep all day so as to avoid the sun, and often have pretty mundane occupations, having non-vampire love interests some of whom do know about the blood, and some of whom don’t.

Wiki has a looooooong piece on vampires, if the subject interests you enough at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire, but the academics of the subject are not what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about why this genre is so popular.  What about vampirism strikes a chord with us?

I read one vampire story, the beginning of a series, about a vampire in a sort of alternate world NYC who works for a covert government agency whose job is to eliminate werewolves (and zombies if I am remembering correctly, maybe not.)   Another is about a female P.I.  in our current normal world who got infected somehow and now tries to carry on her business without anyone else knowing.

So many stories, starting with Bram Stoker have begun to demarginalize the vampire, cleaning him (and now her) up to be presentable in decent society.   These creatures have evolved, literarally-speaking, from terrifying, unexplainable beasts, to characters that have a psychology that needs examining.  (See the Anne Rice vampire books.)  Vampires have moved out of the forest into the drawing room.

But we still have that nagging question of why?  What is it about this whole vampire idea that has caused us to move this animal-like figure out of the dark forests and into our  cities as a hard-working citizen who takes out his trash and pays his taxes?   What does having this myth fully functioning in our literature today do for us?   Is it working as some kind of metaphor for avarice and domination, that of governments, or corporations or cartels,  not to mention that whole living forever trope which is always a crowd-pleaser?

We can say that it is just entertainment, but I think the entertainment answer is just a veneer for what is really going on.  Why would we be entertained by this idea of vampires?

Here’s an additional issue to throw into the mix:  the apocalypse and post apocalyptic literature.  Vampires are often part and parcel of these stories, as well.  Food for pondering.

Vampire stories are considered to be in the categories of paranormal, post-apocalyptic, horror, thriller, and who knows what other tags I am missing.  Vampires are a BIG subcategory of our literature.  We have to ask ourselves why.  Don’t we?

HOLY COW – An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald

Holy_Cow_by_Sarah_Macdonald_292x450  When the author was in her twenties, she backpacked around India, and a fortune teller told her she would be back.  She didn’t think so.  It was too dirty, too noisy, too many people, just too much.  And then, a bunch of years later, she gets hooked up with a guy she loves; he gets posted to New Delhi; she goes with him.  Just like the fortune teller predicted.

She gets really sick in New Delhi, and embarks on a journey, physically and spiritually, to find her inner peace.  She meets up with folks in ashrams, discos, spiritual retreats, and all kinds of unlikely places.  She encounters  Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars.  What a trip.

She is a humorous lady,  and a lot of her account is laugh-out-loud funny, some of it makes you shake your head and roll your eyes, and all of it is interesting.  And all of it makes me strengthen my resolve to never go to India.  Yeah, I am that skeeved by dirt and filthy toilets.  And spooky yogis.

A good read.  Excellent for a wanna-be traveler like me who has no intention of leaving my armchair.

 

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN by Lois Winston

assault-with-deadly-glue-gun  Here’s the plot from the website.  (Why should I knock myself out reinventing the wheel?):

When Anastasia Pollack’s gambling-addicted husband permanently cashes in his chips in Vegas, her life craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her nasty, cane-wielding Communist mother-in-law. Not to mention a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars.

In spite of the dead person, R.I.P., this was a chirpy little read, lots of fun.  I mean, the title alone makes you smile especially if you are a crime story/detective story buff, right?

OK, so the MIL is kind of over-the-top.  But I loved the idea she was a Communist.  How often do you run across a Communist in a detective story, eh?

There is also her own mother living with her, and the MIL From Hell brings her dog, Manifesto, too.

Anastasia works for a crafts magazine.  And finds her boss dead, hot-glued to her chair.  I don’t know why, but I really loved that touch.  Maybe it is because I have often run across people I would very much like to hot glue to their chairs.  That and duct tape.  OK, so I’m a misanthrope.  So sue me.

Hot glued dead people,  a nasty dog named Manifesto, and a card-carrying Communist MIL.  What’s not to love?

Nah.  It’s not a serious mystery a la Ross Macdonald, but sometimes a girl just wants to have fun.

MORE BLOOD, MORE SWEAT AND ANOTHER CUP OF TEA – by Tom Reynolds

reynoldstother09more_blood_more_sweat_another_cup_of_tea  The catchline of this book is Real life adventures in an inner city ambulance.   Tom Reynolds was (is?) a nurse who takes on a job working in an ambulance in London.   This book is a collection of his blog posts he wrote during that time.

Remember the novel, Bringing Out the Dead by Joe Connelly?  This is the real-life version without the depressing angst of Nicholas Cage dripping all over the pages.

It is a picture of how people use and abuse the emergency services,  and also how the daily runs have that  fortifying mix of good and bad.   It is an easy read, and if you are interested in how some of the things function that we take for granted in our lives, you will find this a fascinating read as well.

MURDER ONE TOO MANY by Sabena Stone

Murder 5 Cover blog  Is is book number five in the Rachel Christie Mystery series, but other than a couple of references to characters or events which are not fully explained, it is a stand alone story containing dead bodies, devious personages, and of course, the requisite good looking lady P.I. with the requisite handsome, hot cop boyfriend, requisite unfriendly law enforcement types,  and derring-do.

As usual, the lady P.I. pushes her way illegally into the investigation of a murder without any legal consequences [insert eye roll here].

She and the hot boyfriend are staying in the same hotel resort as a man who is murdered.  Of course, she pushes her way into the crime scene, finds a sobbing woman and gives her her card, because although it looks like suicide the niece is sure it is not.

Several days after the incident (can death by either suicide or murder be called an incident?) and after the crime scene people have thoroughly been through the room,  she goes back to find the bullet, lodged in a planter on the balcony.  A little unrealistic.  The crime scene techs are so inept as to miss that?  Don’t think so.

She keeps putting the hot boyfriend on the back burner to investigate this case.  He is not happy about it.   Frankly, I don’t see what he sees in her in the first place, but then, I haven’t read the other four books.

One annoying thing for me was her car.  It is some kind of vintage Mercedes sports model, and every time she drives somewhere, she doesn’t just get into her car, or park it, she gets into her Mercedes, or parks her [model name which I can’t remember].  It is all told in first person, so this constant reference to the make and model of her car is just too ego-prideful-ain’t-I-the-bomb for my taste.

One other kind of annoying thing was that one character was called Walker in one place, then referred to several more times as Martin, then back to Walker, then settled on Martin.  Apparently the author changed her mind on his name, and didn’t catch all the references to change them.  That was a little off-putting, but nothing serious.

Other than the nonsense with the boyfriend, and my other small cavils, it was a decent mystery.

Admittedly, most of these kinds of mysteries are somewhat formulaic, so if you are looking for Dorothy Sayers or Elizabeth George, or even Agatha Christie, you will be disappointed.  But they are fine for what they are: a quick read, a little puzzle solving, a little feeling superior about seeing the formula and guessing Who Done It.  But all in all, it was OK.   Well, gee.  That’s damning with faint praise, isn’t it.

ABOVE THE BRIDGE by Debra Garner

above-bridge-deborah-garner-paperback-cover-art  A little bit western, (set in modern day Jackson Hole), a little bit mystery, a little bit paranormal, a little bit romance.  Just the ticket when you want to hit the hot SEO notes.  But having said that, it wasn’t bad.   What kicked it out of the ‘great’ category (for its type) was that the paranormal crap portions didn’t fit.  So the construction of the plot felt a bit schiz-y.  It would have worked just as well, if not better, without the paranormal parts,  really, it would have.

In addition, it has the requisite handsome guy who just happens to meet up with the single lady protagonist.  It also has the requisite  question of housing just coincidentally falling into place like it never does for us characters not in novels.  Have you ever noticed that if you want to rent or buy a place, it is either delightfully charming, but REALLY expensive, or affordable, but meh, but never both charming and affordable?   Right, me, too.

So anyway, did I mention it was part mystery?  That part was really good.  Has to do with buried treasure.

An easy, pleasant read, and nicely written.

 

WHEN PIGS FLY by Bob Sanchez

Pigs Fly   His lies usually began as truths that stumbled on unforeseen events.

A retired cop from Lowell, Mass is now living in the little town of Pincushion, AZ.   He is in possession of the ashified mortal remains of his buddy and partner, — wait for it — George Ashe.  I know.  Already you are smiling, right?  He intends to scatter the ashes of Mr. Ashe over the Grand Canyon.

But there is a bit of a glitch.   Several of the most gormless bad guys come to Pinscushion to find Mack because he has a treasure worth kazillions.   Two of the feckless lads have no idea what it is, just that Mack has it.  The third, a huge, mean, foul-smelling thug knows what it is, and wants it.  They are sure it is in the ashes.

They meet on the bus, and are later joined by an equally clueless dodo, an Elvis impersonator named — are you ready? —Elvis, who is stalking a lady he met, and having put a GPS thingy on her car, has followed her out west where in an coincidence of epic proportions meets Diet Cola the thug, and Ace and Frosty, the two twerps.

One of the stars of the whole shebang is Poindexter, a javalina, which is a species of pig.  It is a peccary —  a medium-sized mammal of the family Tayassuidae, or New World pigs.  They are wild in the desert areas.

Javelina

Poindexter is the pet and companion of a twelve-year-old girl.  He stinks, and he loves Brussels sprouts.  That should give you an idea of why he stinks.  His favorite things in all the world are eating Brussels sprouts and watching American Idol with his young owner.  The young owner’s dad feels that the air quality of the home would be mightily improved if Poindexter were let loose in the wild to fend for himself and maybe find a mate.  Poindexter is underthrilled with this turn of events and spends all of his time in the desert trying to get back home to the food he loves and the TV.  And thereby hangs a tale.

This is a laugh-out-loud funny book, with some seriously clever lines:

At first I thought there was a glimmer of good in her, but I can’t say it was no blinding light.

A box of fruit loops lay on the bed, its rainbow of nutrition scattered everywhere.

Ashes in an urn, a homesick javalina, ditzball bad guys,  and love in bloom.  What’s not to like?