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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 6/20/20

The Blood of the Covenant by Brent Monahan, St Martins, 1994    

Sequel to The Book of Common Dread. Our heroes have the scrolls that will expose the coming vampire apocalypse, but they can trust no one, not even each other. They become separated and the female protagonist begins to transform into a vampire herself. The male half of the team is joined by an unorthodox priest and both of them are followed in turn by the oldest vampire in existence, who wants to kill them both and destroy the scrolls. Both of these novels were excellent. Monahan was one of the best writers to appear during the horror boom and it’s a shame he’s left the genre. I should probably try some of his mystery novels. 6/20/20

Unquenchable by David Dvorkin, Zebra, 1995

The supervampire from The Insatiable is human again, so he has to find a “friendly” vampire to turn him back. This leads to another chain of transformations, reversals of fortune, and grotesque imagery. He and various vampires and humans engage in a series of encounters, duels,and other interactions that is endlessly inventive – and sometimes stomach churning. Science fiction is supposed to be the literature of speculation, but sometimes it pops up in the strangest places. It’s a shame that the third in this series never appeared. 6/7/20

The Book of Common Dread by Brent Monahan, St Martins, 1993   

This is an excellent novel of the supernatural with two protagonists. One of them is a vampire who serves an unknown evil, killing those who would contribute to the betterment of humanity in exchange for eternal life. But he also wishes to redeem himself someday by exposing the evil forces. The other is a rare book specialist who is concerned because a woman he admires has fallen under the sway of the vampire, who masquerades as a medium. These three characters are particularly well fleshed out and have distinct and complicated personalities. There is some interesting back story and hints of a more complex mythos that are never made more explicit. Quite memorable. 6/5/20

Among the Immortals by Paul Lake, Story Line, 1994 

An unsuccessful poet and academic is stunned when a fellow graduate student brutally murders a professor, then hints that he has some valuable letters pertaining to the romantic poets. This leads him to join the circle of intellectuals surrounding a man named Ginotti, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. It isn’t long before the reader realizes that Byron and Shelley were vampires, and that Shelley is Ginotti. The story is more metaphysical and intellectual than adventurous, although there are several violent interludes. This is a very unorthodox and smartly done vampire novel which appeared from a small press and seems to have vanished into obscurity. 5/31/20

Insatiable by David Dvorkin, Pinnacle, 1993  

The protagonist is turned into a vampire by a woman who seduces him. Distraught, he tries to destroy himself using a new energy source being developed by a laboratory. Now he can live in the daylight, but human blood no longer satisfies him. He needs the blood of vampires. He is also determined to destroy the woman who made him, but vampires are invulnerable, even when he takes rather extraordinary steps to kill her. Those steps are unlike anything else you’ve ever encountered in a vampire story. This was even better than I remembered from when I first read it almost thirty years ago. There is a sequel. 5/26/20

How Dear the Dawn by Mark Eliot, Ballantine, 1987   

Crime writer David Pedneau only used this pseudonym once, for this vampire novel. A centuries old vampire is released from a watery grave and begins to prey on the locals. Although it only converts one victim to vampire status – it allows the others to survive – there is immediate danger because she is careless and disobeys him, killing three more people, each of whom returns from the dead, although they are almost immediately destroyed. Although the story moves well, there are problems with the story. The master vampire, who has survived for centuries, is ultimately destroyed because he lost track of the time and failed to reach shelter before daybreak. His powers are pretty impressive – control of the weather, certain animals, telekinesis, levitation, super-strength, etc. – but he is quite inept at using them. This feels like the treatment for a low budget vampire movie. 5/23/20

Progeny of the Adder by Leslie H. Whitten, Ace, 1965 

I have long believed that this novel inspired Jeff Rice’s The Night Stalker. It has a police officer rather than a journalist but otherwise the plot is almost scene for scene the same. Three dead bodies suggest that the killer believes himself to be a vampire, and when he is finally tracked down, he shakes off multiple gunshot wounds. Fortunately his victims do not become vampires themselves. He is ultimately destroyed but we never actually discover his origin. It is very tightly written and was a very promising debut novel, but unfortunately nothing Whitten wrote afterward was anywhere near as good. 5/19/20

Drumbeats by Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart, Wordfire, 2020

This is a slightly expanded version of a story that first appeared in Shock Rock II. Peart, the drummer for the band Rush who died recently, collaborated with Anderson on two novels as well as this story, which is based in part upon his tour of Cameroon. The protagonist encounters a village that manufactures drums, but the drums are very extraordinary. They can be deadly. Illustrated and surrounded by essays from the two authors. The story is, I think, relatively slight but well told and the accompanying material is interesting. 5/14/20

The Notch by Tom Holland, Cemetery Dance, 2020, $40    

This unintentionally topical book involves two separate plot elements. The first is a new virus which arises in Africa and quickly spreads around the world. It is deadly and so far incurable because it is so contagious. The second involves the mysterious appearance of a young boy who does not speak, who seems to be capable of teleporting, and who can heal injuries and illnesses and even brings a dog back from the dead. I had some problems with this one. For one thing, the scientists find a connection between the boy and plague, via computer, hours after the boy first appears and at that point there is only a rumor that he revived the dog. It has not even been investigated. No matter how sophisticated a computer might be, it cannot draw conclusions without data. Second, there is a weird disparity in timing. Events that appear to take days in the story line away from the boy correspond to hours where he is, but are supposed to be simultaneously. And finally, there were no real sympathetic characters. Much of the novel consists of a battle among villains to control the boy and none of them are likeable. The boy has no personality at all – he is essentially a thing. 5/13/20

If It Bleeds by Stephen King, Scribner, 2020 

Four novellas. The first is excellent. A young boy discovers that he can still leave messages on the cellphone of his dead mentor, who can intervene against the boy’s enemies. Unsettling and very well written. The second is a disjointed end of the world type story that I didn’t like at all. The third and longest is a new adventure of Holly Gibney from the Mr. Mercedes series. This time she has to track down a journalist who is also a monster. It’s a bit too long and for me fatally wounded. Not even Stephen King can compel me to enjoy present tense narration, particularly in a suspense story, when it kicks me out constantly by saying “Look, I’m fiction!” The final story is better. A troubled writer has an hallucination. Or is it real? 5/8/20

Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford, Tor, 2020, $14.95 

The protagonist suffers a concussion during a robbery he witnessed, after which he finds himself leaving his body at night. He discovers that there are others capable of doing so and that they routinely spy on other people. Then he learns of the dangers of the dream world – the mysterious miasma that can consume an astral body, the cutters – who sever the connections back to human bodies. And then there is something even worse, a creature that can be dangerous in both the physical and astral world. Consumed this book in a single sitting. Beautifully written and quite unsettling. 5/5/20

The Bank by Bentley Little, CD Publications, 2020, $25, ISBN 978-1-58767-740-3 

Bentley Little has spent most of his career creating sinister versions of familiar institutions – stores, resorts, neighborhood associations, schools – so the title should tell you right away a lot about what the plot is going to be. A strange little bank opens in a small town, a bank which seems to have unusually precise information about its potential customers. Clearly something supernatural is going on. And woe unto those who decide to do business there. Little creates worlds that look very much like ours but which operate in different ways. Things happen in many of his stories that aren’t just supernatural, they are contrary to how the real world operates. This can be offputting until you realize that it is a conscious decision. And some readers might even think that the supernatural bank in this story isn’t all that much worse than real ones anyway. 4/30/20

Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils by James Lovegrove, Titan, 2019

The final book in a trilogy in which Holmes and Watson battle Moriarty, who has displaced Nyarlothotep, and his minions, who include snake men, faux sea-creatures, German submariners, and other foes. Mycroft gets murdered in this one and Cthulhu puts in a physical appearance for the climax. The author did not take this story entirely seriously, but it's full of wild adventures, twists on the Holmesian story - Wiggins is not human, and it includes a visit to R'Lyeh itself. More fun than horror but certainly out of the ordinary. 2/9/20

The Cavern of Death by Anonymous, Valancourt, originally published in 1794

This is, as you might guess, a gothic novel, reportedly immensely popular at the time it appeared. It is rather tame by our time and would probably be considered fantasy rather than horror if published today. A knight returning after a long absence has to rescue the woman he loves from a forced marriage. His quest takes him briefly into the cavern of the title where he meets a grizzled spirit and has some minor supernatural adventures before carrying the day. Interesting but dated. 1/17/20

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