DRACULAS (A Novel of Terror)
by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, & F. Paul Wilson
For a girl who claims to dislike vampire novels, I sure seem to be reading a lot lately. Five since the start of the year. From this, we can infer that either Susan is lying about her literary predilections, or that roughly eight percent of all books published today feature vampires. I think the truth lies somewhere in between.
The refreshing thing about the current glut of vamp-lit is that no two writers take the same approach to the legendary beasts. Some are traditionalists, some are epidemiologists, some are humorists, and some just like gore. And in Draculas by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson, there's a bit of all of the above. Back to that in a moment.
First, I'm going to comment on the collaborative nature of this novel. I've read books by a pair of authors, but never a quartet before. You could be forgiven for thinking that it's choppy or doesn't fit together properly. However, the truth is that Draculas is seamless. It was not the least bit obvious to me that different sections had been written by different men. For readers or writers interested in how the book was written, you're actually in luck. After the text of the novel, there's a section of "extras" (like DVD extras) including interviews, extra content, and extensive material (including correspondence between the four authors) detailing how the book was written. This won't be of interest to all readers, but it's a bonanza for those who want to go behind the scenes. The book is value added, if you will.
Okay, back to the story... The novel opens with a few tabloid accounts of a "vampire skull" with "thirty-two elongated, razor-sharp teeth" being unearthed by a Romanian farmer and being purchased by a wealthy Coloradan. He is Mortimer Moorecook, elderly and dying. At this point he's got more money than time, and it seems he's looking for a way to cheat death. When the skull finally arrives, he opens it in the company of his hospice nurse and a "biological anthropologist" he's hired to research the vampire legends. After a quick toast to celebrate his acquisition, he plunges the skull's horrific teeth into his neck and immediately goes into convulsions. The nurse and anthropologist get him to the hospital where, to their amazement, elderly Mortimer transforms into a kind of monster. A "dracula." And it's contagious. Soon, remote Blessed Crucifixion Hospital (ha!) is lousy with draculas and survivors are fighting for their lives and their humanity.
In the introduction, Joe Konrath (eschewing his Jack Kilborn pseudonym) explains that back in his day vampires were scary. They weren't sparkly heartthrobs. "This novel is an attempt to make them scary again." And it succeeds to a point, but it's also kind of funny. Not as overt as Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends, but on par with a film like Zombieland. (A funny film that completely freaked me out. I'm SUCH a lightweight.) Draculas is definitely taking the premise seriously, but there's a lot of humor in vampire tropes. Plus, several of the characters are downright amusing, such as the gun-toting sheriff's deputy who likes to quote Clint Eastwood dialogue to calm his nerves. And the fact that one of the characters is a clown. The little girl vampire that wanted to drink the "red candy" was just a touch precious in my opinion, but mostly the authors get the balance just right. It's creepy. It's fast-paced. And it may be just what you need to get in the Halloween spirit. Enjoy!